One man, two guvnors, June 1st ’12

london west end

The reviews were all correct – it’s hilarious! Goldoni’s play is transferred to England of the 60ies and not taken seriously at all and focusses on the farce of the commedia dell’ arte and does so with incredible gusto. Thanks to a fabulous cast – first and foremost Welsh actor Owain Arthur – the show has not one moment where the audience is allowed to relax and / or stop laughing.

There is one big nuisance tho – as an additional fun factor the theatre brings a group of musicians on stage, the band highly talented and also providing the necessary distraction from stage resets, but they are brought on stage 10 minutes BEFORE the show starts and before intermission ends. This is highly annoying as ppl who come back in time are as distracting as people who wait for audience members coming back after intermission.

Of course the central figure is Arlecchino, the harlequin, Owain Arthur, who is the minder of a  small time crook, but doesn’t know that his master has been stabbed to death and his twin sister Rachel has taken to a disguise to pose as her late brother Roscoe. As fate will have it, Arlecchino Frances Henshall also meets Stanley Stubbers who is the boyfriend/fiancee of Rachel who, it turns out, has to lay low because he had stabbed Roscoe to death. He needs letters fetched and finds Frances whom he installs as his servant. So going from unemployed to being employed by two masters, Frances’ only regret is that he doesn’t get anything to eat!

Because Arlecchino/Frances does involve the audience in his antics on stage (once ordering two men up to help him transport an apparently heavy suitcase into the pub), it is almost no surprise when after starting a rant on how hungry he is and asking if anyone in the audience has a sandwich for him, someone actually pipes up “ME!”. That of course wasn’t supposed to happen and caused poor Owain to corpse on stage – after a moment of stunned silence he broke into laughter and then quipped: Sir, this is an honorable british theatre not panto!! to which the whole audience roared with laughter.”so what kind of sandwich is it anyway??” “Hummus” at which we finally veered off into panto land!

Then finally poor Frances can squirrell away food – as he serves two masters he cuts their respective plates to get something from everything for himself. He is aided in that by yet another member of the audience – or so it seems. this time, tho, it is actually an actress who helps out and finally gets stowed under the table, set on fire and being doused in fire extinguisher foam.

Thus ends the first act.

The second act is all about finding an Arlecchina for Arlecchino, now that his bodily urges – his hunger – are silenced. And he finds her, but she’s not very taken by him, so he poses as his brother whom she likes. now this brother causes mayhem with the two guvnors as he informs each of them that Rachel and Stanley are dead so that Stanley and Rachel decide to commit suicide, Luckily they choose the same bridge to fall to death and find each other.

So not only do Rachel and Stanley come together, Stanley is also going to the police and aided by a shrewd lawyer will probably get acquitted in the trial. also the – hilariously hamming – actor gets his love, the daughter who was supposed to marry Roscoe. And Frances gets a long weekend in Spain with his Arlecchina (Jodie Prenger) and spending money too from his two guvnors.

It’s a brilliant, fast paced tour the force for Owain Arthur and he has the audience in the palm of his hand from the first moment on till the stage door where he graciously chatted with us. A very likeable guy with an adorable Welsh accent he made good use of in the play. Also incredibly nice: the talented Jodie Prenger who took the time to talk with us, too.


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