One Man, Two Guvnors

Richard Bean
National Theatre
Curve, Leicester
to

It's been a hit at the National Theatre, on Broadway and on tour with James Corden playing the lead. Owain Arthur stepped into his shoes when One Man, Two Guvnors transferred to the Theatre Royal, Haymarket. Now Rufus Hound has collared the role of Francis Henshall for a new tour, with Leicester being its first stop.

Some people thought it was a gamble to promote understudy Owain Arthur; others expected it wouldn't be a good idea to unleash Hound because he has so little stage experience. After all, it was only three months ago that he completed his first theatrical stint, in Utopia at the Soho Theatre in London.

But anyone who feels disappointed about not seeing Corden at their local theatre shouldn't worry: Hound is a master of comedy and looks totally at ease in front of a large audience.

My colleague Philip Fisher in his review of One Man Two Guvnors said Corden gave the impression that Richard Bean had written the role especially for him. Hound gives a similar conviction.

Such is his popularity—he’s probably best known for appearing on the ITV2 panel game Celebrity Juice—that at Curve people starting laughing as soon as he appeared on stage.

He makes the most of every line, extracting the maximum amount of humour from the script. He also revels in the opportunity to ad lib when two members of the audience join him on stage for several moments of silliness.

He’s equally comfortable with physical and verbal comedy; the show is a triumph for Hound whose career is about to take off in a different direction.

The new touring version of One Man, Two Guvnors has a completely new cast. It's testament to the talents of director Nicholas Hytner and physical comedy director Cal McCrystal as well as Richard Bean that the transition is seamless.

The production is shorter than the London show, coming in at two-and-a-half hours including an interval.

With slapstick, a little bit of panto, farce and innuendos, One Man, Two Guvnors is slick and nicely paced; it's virtually guaranteed to be the funniest thing you'll see all year.

But don't think Rufus Hound is solely responsible for its success. Every single member of the cast adds to the enjoyment.

For example, Edward Bennett—who took over from David Tennant as Hamlet in the RSC production at the Novello Theatre in London—is a revelation as the boarding school-educated and upper-class twit Stanley Stubbers.

Peter Caulfield is mesmerising as the 87-year-old waiter Alfie, a rubber-limbed contortionist who changes from slow motion to hyper-charged whenever anyone tweaks his pacemaker.

Leon Williams is gloriously over the top as aspiring actor Alan Dangle; Kellie Shirley is impressively dippy as Pauline; and Amy Booth-Steel shines as the spirited and naughty Dolly.

Even those with small roles make the most of their limited time in the spotlight.

There are also four new members of skiffle group The Craze who perform Grant Olding’s songs with gusto and panache.

Be warned: this is a fabulous show which will almost certainly sell out wherever it plays. Get your tickets now—before it’s too late.

Reviewer: Steve Orme