One Man, Two Guvnors – a riotously funny show paying homage to best of British comedy

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If you’re in search of a show that will leave your ribs hurting and your jaw aching from laughing so hard – you’ve just found it. Running until May 11, it would be positively criminal to miss out on the side-splittingly glorious One Man, Two Guvnors as it enjoys a rare in-the-round staging at The New Vic. 

Richard Bean’s smash-hit play has been reimagined in the most wonderful way, featuring a truly phenomenal cast of New Vic favourites and new faces, who deliver a masterclass of fast-paced physical comedy, live music and plenty of mayhem.

To set the scene, we’re in 1963 Brighton and being told not to feed the seagulls or the cast. It’s Pauline and Alan’s engagement party, and it’s been gatecrashed by Pauline’s ex, Rosco and his minder, Francis Henshall – only, Rosco’s dead (he was stabbed two days ago). You see, Francis Henshall was sacked from his band and needed some cash, so almost snapped Rosco’s arm off when asked to give him a hand with some jobs. But on said job, accidentally finds himself with another, equally dubious employer – Stanley Stubbers – a bit of a toff who’s just as elusive as Rosco.

Andrew Billington

But there’s a problem. Rosco and Stanley can’t know about one another – but Francis, well, he’s a sandwich short of a picnic (and actually very hungry himself, which adds to some of the delirium). With money to be made and a love interest to woo, Francis has got his hands full. 

At the heart of the chaos and bringing Francis to life is Michael Hugo, who New Vic regulars will recognise from a multitude of performances such as Marvellous and Around The World in 80 Days. The Guardian has described the comedic genius as ‘possibly the greatest actor-clown of the stage today’ – and truly, I couldn’t have put it better myself. The harlequin has boundless energy and impeccable comic timing, which allows him to earn the audience’s adoration from the moment he swaggers on stage. Breaking the fourth wall and getting unsuspecting members of the front row involved, it instantly makes viewers feel a part of the secret he’s keeping, and drags them along for an absolute rollercoaster of misadventure and misunderstandings. 

Andrew Billington

One particular scene saw Francis battling the angel and devil on his own shoulder, which led to an incredibly persuasive and fantastically choreographed one-man bust-up, which really was a physical comedy masterpiece.

But Hugo is not alone in delivering standout performances, as Jessica Dyas shines as Francis’ love interest Dolly, captivating the audience with her loveable charm, wit and strong feminist views. Nick Haverson’s portrayal of Alfie is another highlight of the production, who couldn’t be more convincing as the 80-something-year-old waiter. The pace-maker-wearing, hard-of-hearing, hunched-over gent becomes something of a sidekick to Francis, and the dining room scene where he falls backwards down the stairs and tries desperately to assist in the delivery of meals reminded me of iconic sitcoms like Fawlty Towers. 

Andrew Billington

Speaking of sitcoms, another performer, Gareth Cooper appeared to take his comedic cues from the likes of the late Rik Mayall, delivering a stellar performance and bringing a really unique energy to the stage.

And what’s more is that the multi-talented cast also double as the show’s live band, with the likes of Lucinda Freeburn intimidating as Rosco one moment, before finding herself on the bandstand with her violin the next, while Alyce Liburd, portraying Pauline, delivered a striking vocal performance. The incorporation of live music really added to the atmosphere, harking back to the swinging sixties with a toe-tappingly infectious soundtrack.

Andrew Billington

Under director Conrad Nelson, (The Card, Brassed Off, Anna of The Five Towns) there’s never a dull moment, with even the set changes becoming a performance in their own right. The staging is, as ever, inventive and innovative – the New Vic team never fails to surprise me with something new – I mean, who knew there were stairs? 

From the insanely talented and charismatic cast, to the brilliantly witty script and fast-paced slapstick humour, One Man, Two Guvnors is a riotously funny evening that pays homage to the best of British comedy while delivering side-splitting comedy and infectious energy. Running until May 11, 2024, you can buy tickets to see One Man, Two Guvnors at The New Vic here.


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