One Man, Two Guv’nors, Torch Theatre
Review by Liam McKenna
The Torch theatre’s in-house team has brought cracking choreographed chaos to the stage in this modern adaptation of a 350-year-old Italian comedy spectacular that was updated for the West-end almost a decade ago, exchanging 18th century Florence for 1960’s Brighton.
Jam-packed with all the classic slapstick tropes, this full-scale fast-paced farce, directed by the Torch’s own Peter Doran (who cameos as an ancient doddering waiter), follows a perpetually hungry Welshman who attempts to juggle two jobs simultaneously with two unsuspecting ‘guvnors’ without the other catching on to his scheme.
The plot moves with breathless speed in the first half, building to a grand anarchic crescendo. The joy of this performance is in its unpredictable charm. It’s hard to keep track at times of who is who. Everything seems to fall down; from parts of the set, characters tumbling, even the fourth wall takes a few blows as members of the audience are roped in to assist with heavy lifting and some messy food preparation that would struggle to pass a hygiene inspection.
A truly mad assemblage of characters goes toe to toe in this seaside romp. Christian Patterson as the lead role as Francis Henshaw is superb in riffing playfully off the audience and holding together a comically bewildering narrative in serving a supposedly dead gangster that’s actually his sister who wants her brother’s money, and the man accused of his murder, Stanley, an uber posho with a penchant for an impeccable turn of phrase (Country life!). Special mention, too, for a stand-out performance by Gwydion Rhys as a try-hard wannabe Shakespearean actor.
With a wonderfully designed set and lively intervals of country folk music in which all members of the cast play a part be it on washboards and Alan on ‘chest’, everyone is clearly having a blast. Aside from the obvious plot points, it’s hard to know at times how much of what happens is meant to happen. But seeing the characters trying to compose themselves in the face of unexpected quips is all part of the fun of this semi-improvised style of theatre, and the energy rubs off on the crowd, who are in raptures throughout. A fine job all around. This deserves all the plaudits it gets. Two tickets to Ma-jorca, please!
One Man, Two Gu’nors is on at Torch Theatre until the 20 October https://www.torchtheatre.co.uk/whats-on/theatre