The ‘One Man’ of One Man, Two Guvnors – Owain Arthur

AussieTheatre spoke with Owain Arthur, the Welsh actor starring in international hit One Man, Two Guvnors.

One Man Two Guvnors. Image by Johan Persson
Owain Arthur in One Man, Two Guvnors. Image by Johan Persson

It’s a rare thing for a play to capture the hearts and minds of audiences around the world as quickly as One Man, Two Guvnors has. After opening on the West End in 2011 to unanimous rave reviews (we’re talking 5 stars in every major newspaper), it’s played two UK tours, Broadway, Hong Kong and Adelaide.

Owain Arthur, who played Francis Henshall on the West End and now in the international tour, puts the show’s success down to one thing – it’s damn funny.

“There aren’t a lot of comedies out there like this,” he says. “A lot of them are negative comedy, with people saying how rubbish everything is, or controversial comedy. This goes back to basics, I think.”

The script, by Richard Bean, is an adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s 1743 commedia dell’arte play Servant of Two Masters. The action has been updated to 1963 Brighton and there are some modern references thrown in, but all the elements and stock characters of commedia dell’arte remain.

“Commedia dell’arte really is, and I’ve said this many times, the holy grail of comedy,” Arthur says. “It’s refreshing to see it again. I think that’s what it boils down to – it’s because it’s been around for such a long time.”

Francis Henshall is Truffaldino in Goldoni’s original, the clownish, harlequin character at the centre of the action. Francis finds himself working for two men, and a comedy of errors ensues when he tries to keep the two from meeting and finding out that he’s serving them both.

It’s a role that Arthur is no stranger to, having now played Francis in over 400 performances. He started out with the original London production as the understudy to James Corden, who won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his performance.

Owain Arthur in One Man, Two Guvnors. Image by Johan Persson
Owain Arthur in One Man, Two Guvnors. Image by Johan Persson

“The critics came and reviewed the show after James had left, which isn’t the normal thing to do when there’s a cast change. I think it’s because they wanted to see if the play would be successful without a big name in it.”

And successful it was. The Telegraph said that Arthur was “possibly even funnier than James Corden”. The producers even made some slight variations to the script so that Francis is now Welsh, to fit with Arthur’s heritage and natural accent.

His performance gave him the opportunity to play the role on the West End, on the UK tour and in Hong Kong. He’s just finished a season with the British cast at the Adelaide Festival and has upcoming seasons in Sydney, Auckland and Melbourne.

Arthur says that in spite of the fact that the show is very much a British style of comedy, the appeal is universal, as he’s now finding while performing around the world.

“It’s a show that will make you forget about any troubles you have,” he says. “If you haven’t laughed for a while and need a good laugh, you can just come and let yourself go. It’s pure nonsense in the best sense.”

For tickets to the Sydney season visit and for Melbourne visit

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