Penny Flood reviews One Man, Two Guv'nors
Panto meets Whitehall farce in this hilarious production, strictly for people whose sense of humour tends to the silly. Double entendres, slapstick, confusion, misunderstandings and political incorrectness abound. Suitcases and letters get mixed up, there’s a woman dressed as a man and, of course, somebody loses their trousers! It’s English comedy at its very best with jokes about Margaret Thatcher, Woolworths, Shakespeare, Parkhurst Prison to name but a few, and a running gag about identical twins.
The year is 1963, and between scenes a band plays skiffle and Beatle-type pop. The band is called The Craze, a name that will resonate with those of us old enough to remember the East End gangsters, the Cray Twins.
The central plot revolves around East End gangster Charlie “The Duck” Clench (Shaun Williamson – Barry from Eastenders) who was hoping to unite two gangster families with an arranged marriage between his daughter Pauline (Jasmyn Banks) and the notorious Roscoe Crabbe. Roscoe however, has been murdered which leaves Pauline free to marry the love of her life, wannabe thespian, Alan (Edward Hancock). So far so good until the murdered gangster turns up ready to wed Pauline. But this is pantomime so of course things are not as they seem. It’s not Roscoe but his twin sister Rachel (Alicia Davies) who’s arrived, and she’s in love with Stanley. Lots of room for mayhem and none of it wasted.
Star of the show is Gavin Spokes as the hapless Francis Henshall, a man who hasn’t eaten for 16 hours and with no money to buy food. His current employer, Charlie Clench) hasn’t paid him so, almost by accident, accepts a job from Stanley Stubbers (Patrick Warner), who happens to be on the run from the Clenches. Spokes plays to the audience, chatting away with much nodding and winking because we know his secret. His scene in the restaurant at the end of the first act, with Alfie (Michael Dylon) - a shaky waiter who shouldn’t be trusted to serve soup - and much rushing in and out of doors, has very little to do with the actual plot but who cares? It’s priceless.
The action moves between London and Brighton where the scenery allows for chase scenes which go on behind Francis while he prattles away to the audience. At times you almost want to scream ’Look Behind You’.
Full marks too to Emma Barton as the delightful sex kitten and political philosopher Dolly; to Derek Elroy as Charlie’s gofer Lloyd; to David Verrey as Charlie’s shady solicitor who also popped up to play with the band, and to the rest of the cast who took on several different roles and, for most of the time, didn’t get the giggles.
This isn’t one for people with poorly developed funny bones, but if you appreciate belly laughs, seaside postcards and grown-up smutty jokes, it’s a must see. But a word of warning, if you don’t want to be part of the action, don’t sit in the front three rows!
March 3, 2015