One Man Two Guvnors


I saw one man two guvnors on the 2nd of April 2020 which was streamed on the national theatres YouTube channel for a week. James Corden stars as Frances Henshall, who needs a job to buy food. He takes the opportunity of having two guvnors and being paid more money. In the second act, he wants to find love and he focuses on pursuing Dolly. The audience know that Francis’ two guvnors are in love; Rachel, disguised as her brother Roscoe to get the money that was owed to him and her lover, Stanley Stubbers, murdered Rachel’s brother, who she is disguised as. Yet Rachel forgives him because of the understandable circumstance. Throughout the play, Francis is fooling his guvnors, but they are fooling him as well. The play is based on the servant of two masters, by the Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni, which was written in 1746 for actor Antonio Sacco, one of the greatest Truffaldinos in history. The modernised version by Richard Bean was premiered on the 24th May 2011 and its like pantomimes I've seen before, I think this is because the audience are being talked at by the protagonist throughout the entirety of the performance. Since the play is set in 1963 the traditional language and old-fashioned costume create an ambience that allows the audience to believe that its Brighton, 1963. If the play was premiered the same time as it is set, it could have been taken as a serious play, because men weren’t supposed to have two guvnors, also the murder and the woman dressed as a man wouldn’t be as funny as it is for the modern audience, because the times have changed so the humour has changed. There are many references to 1960s Britain - The Beatles, Margaret Thatcher being the first female Prime Minister of the U.K, this also makes the play feel more of its time, but for the audience who have learned about Thatcherism, they can laugh at the references.

A particular scene that stands out for me is when Francis is alone on stage, he argues with himself. Slapping his face and turning to the left, as if he has split into two, talking to his (invisible) other self, and then slaps the other side of his face. They are arguing back and forth, increasing the pace of the fight. This farce-like style had the audience laughing constantly and applauding Corden's energetic performance. Another moment that I never expected was when Francis brought Christine, an audience member on stage and she got involved in the mess Francis made during his preparations for both of his guvnors' evening dinner. I was stunned in disbelief when a fire extinguisher was spraying in her face and she was shaking with fear, and probably embarrassment. Even the stage manager had to collect her from the stage. It was only when the cast bowed at the end of the play, I realised it was part of the show. I believed it was real and admired the witty humour of this scene.

From watching this piece, I have taken the need for a visual set, so that it allows the characters to live and thrive in. In this performance if the set was stripped bare, I think it wouldn’t have been as successful, it allows the audience to sit back and enjoy the zestful performance, instead of being bothered by the lack of ambience.

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