Written by Richard Bean and based upon The Servant of Two Masters (1746) by Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni this fabulously funny English touring production is set in 1963 Brighton and built upon the original – which was strongly influenced by the commedia dell’arte tradition.
Jealousy, old age, love and adultery were themes popular with the commedia audiences in the 18th century and Bean has cleverly retained them and adapted them to the stylish sixties era.
The main character Francis Henshall is in search of food, sex and fun – but without a penny to his name that’s not possible. Two jobs come up at once – one as a minder to Roscoe Crabb, the other as a man-servant to Stanley Stubbers. But Roscoe is really Rachael disguised as her own dead twin brother who has been murdered by her boyfriend, Stanley. And so the confusion, hilarity and ridiculous coincidences begin.
This production is a celebration (and a fine tribute) to British comedy itself. Slap-stick, farce, stand-up, gags, just plain silly naughtiness and showing off helps it rocket along from one giggle to next. Improvisation is rife, as is audience inclusion; craftily some of it is rehearsed and staged. We do know that some of the moments are ‘set up’ … and at times that makes it all the more amusing.
The show purposely breaks all the rules as the wall between stage and audience crumbles continuously. It works. We want more – and feel at times that we are in the show. It’s ingenious.
Traditional commedia included song and dance and so does One Man, Two Guvnors. The Craze, a very sixties looking four man out-fit (with a Buddy Holly flavour) are playing when the audience enter at the beginning and after interval, and pepper the show with excellent music all the way through; the numbers flawlessly working as scene change.
The talent in this show is awesome. And although the star is undoubtedly Owain Arthur (who plays Francis Henshall) the rest of the large cast shine along with him.
Directed brilliantly by Nicholas Hytner and with just as brilliant songs by Grant Olding, it is not at all hard to see why this show is one of the sell-out hits of the 2013 Adelaide Festival.