Tuesday, 21 May 2013

One Man, Two Guvnors, May 21, 2013 ****

By Richard Bean
Based on The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni
Songs by Grant Olding
A National Theatre of Great Britain production, Co-presented with Arts Centre Melbourne and MTC
Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne, May 21 until June 29, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review published in Herald Sun online on May 24, 2013. KH

If you love a good clown show, Richard Bean’s play, One Man, Two Guvnors, will tickle your fancy with the zany, physical comedy antics of Owain Arthur wrangling a recalcitrant travelling trunk and serving a chaotic dinner to two masters.
Owain Arthur
Just like Arlecchino (Harlequin) in Carlo Goldoni’s 18th century Italian comedy, The Servant of Two Masters, Francis (Owain Arthur) is a lusty, desperate servant who tries to keep his belly and his pockets stuffed by serving two masters simultaneously.

It all goes pear-shaped, of course.

Francis (Owain Arthur), sacked from his skiffle band, signs on as a minder/assistant for two bosses – Roscoe Crabbe (Rosie Wyatt), a cockney gangster, and Stanley Stubbers  (Edward Bennett) an idiot toff.

Roscoe is really Rachel disguised as her dead twin brother who was killed by Stubbers, Rachel’s idiot, boarding-school-toff boyfriend.

This modern farce, like its Italian parent written at the end of the heyday of the Commedia dell’Arte, is riddled with ridiculous disguises, mistaken identities, blunders, near-misses, unrequited love, broad physical comedy, asides to the audience, plenty of laughs and improvisation.

The production, directed with wit and pizzazz by Nicholas Hytner, updates Goldoni’s characters and slapstick to 1960s Brighton, England, and the performance style straddles vaudeville, Carry-On movies and old-fashioned, Butlins holiday camp entertainment.

Most of the comedy arises from Francis juggling his two jobs, and scrambling to keep his bosses apart.

Bean’s snappy, stand-up style, verbal comedy and innuendo blends perfectly with knockdown, sight gags and clown routines directed skilfully by Cal McCrystal.

Arthur, as Francis, is a consummate clown with a cheery, slightly camp disposition, a tubby frame that seems to bounce off the furniture, and a charming, cheeky way of engaging with audience.  His routines wrangling a travelling trunk, and serving a chaotic dinner to two masters, are hilarious.

The entire, versatile cast is immersed in the classic Commedia style, but Edward Bennett is a comical gift as the dim-witted, upper-class twit, Stubbers, and Mark Jackson’s deaf, trembling, octogenarian waiter, who is as bendy as plasticine, sends the audience into paroxysms.

Perky songs by Grant Olding, in the skiffle band style, provide a cunning and entertaining cover for scene changes.

There is a running gag about the horror the characters feel when faced with fleeing to Australia which, apparently, is all “lager, barbecues – and opera!”

The strength of the production is the slapstick scenes and broad, comic characters that make up in bags for some slow-moving, wordy scenes that feel like 1960s television.

By Kate Herbert

Cast includes:
 Owain Arthur, Edward Bennett, Amy Booth- Steel, Nick Cavaliere, Colin Mace, Mark Monero, Kellie Shirley, Leon Williams, Rosie Wyatt

Director Nicholas Hytner;
Physical Comedy Director Cal McCrystal;
 Designer Mark Thompson;
Lighting Designer Mark Henderson;
Music and Songs Grant Olding;
Sound Designer Paul Arditti;
Associate Director/Choreographer Adam Penford;
Fight Director Kate Waters

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