One Man, Two Guvnors opens in Melbourne

By the guffaws at the opening night of One Man, Two Guvnors, it’s guaranteed to be a sold-out must-see. With a cast and script as tight as a mother-of-the-bride’s girdle, low-class British farce doesn’t get any classier.

One Man, Two Guvnors
One Man, Two Guvnors

Commissioned by the National Theatre of Great Britain, it opened in June 211 and had to move to the West End, where it won a swag of awards, is still running and is also touring the world. With a script by Richard Bean (who wrote The Heretic, seen last year at the MTC), it’s an adaption of Servant of Two Masters, a 1742 Italian commedia comedy.

Pauline and Alan are getting engaged, but Pauline’s homosexual ex-fiance (her dad made the beard deal in prison) turns up after they thought he was dead. But don’t worry cos he is dead and has a twin sister and … and that’s just a sub plot! Meanwhile Francis Henshell’s accidentally gone and got himself two jobs and two bosses, who are both in the same hotel (a pub that does food!) and all he has to do is keep them apart, get a feed and meet the dolly of his dreams.

If you’re arty and posh, it’s a contemporary reflection on commedia dell’arte with a broad social commentary about a time when Britain thought it was going to change. Or – it’s bloody funny and set in 1963. It’s a bit Carry On/Are You Being Served?, but created for and by smart people, and with less tit jokes.

There’s a skiffle band (and original songs by Grant Olding) to make the scene changes and the interval much more fun; an old school design with side flats and a curtain that’s been designed with as much understanding, irony and jokes as the script (and it’s a bit gorgeous); and a cast who deftly balance the line between art and good taste before pratfalling over it and running as fast as they can away from any semblance of arty sensibility.

Owain Arthur owns the show as Francis Henshell, but Mark Jackson as an ailing octegenarian and Edward Bennett as the personification of why we laugh at private boys school are scene stealers and there’s no one on the stage who doesn’t love and get exactly what this show is.

If the law firm of Dangle, Berry and Bush makes you giggle, you’re already loving it.

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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