By Martha Hughes
As this was my first visit to an ‘Act One’ play, I was unsure as to what I should expect. But ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’, directed by Peter Sadler and Laura Martin, was a more than pleasant surprise. The play is an adaptation of an Italian comedy from the 1700s but lends itself well to the setting of 1960s Brighton.
The comedy revolves around One (hungry) Man, Francis Henshall, who finds himself working for Two Guvnors, one gangster and one upper-class murderer. The gangster, Roscoe is actually the upper-class murderer, Stanley’s, betrothed in disguise, just to complicate matters. The plot primarily follows bumbling Francis’ mission to keep both Guvnors happy so that they do not become aware of his double employment, resulting in a variety of farcical mishaps.
Throw in plenty of audience interaction, some slightly dodgy accents, a few hilarious slapstick monologues and a decent helping of adult humour and you’ve got yourself a success in ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’. The show seems very self-aware and this is always key when trying to deliver slapstick, physical comedy.
The first act took a little while to warm up, but as the opening night this can probably be forgiven and forgotten. Once the plot became clearer, the audience was soon roaring with laughter thanks to the comedic tales of romance, deception, and of course, one man, Francis’, quest for a decent meal (relatable). The contrast of characters from boarding school Stanley Stubbers to old school gangster ‘Charlie “The Duck” Clench’ certainly kept viewers entertained throughout with strong performances all round.
The second act (which resumed after a watery mishap) brought more laughter, although it had some slower scenes. There were a few more political and societal references in this half which hit the spot for some of the audience. There was a bit of ‘will they, won’t they’ for the couples of the play, some of which were more entertaining than others. The play ends with a song and a dance which seemed a little out of the blue but amusing none the less.
A few of the characters such as the whining ‘Pauline Clench’ and over-theatrical ‘Alan’ got somewhat overshadowed by stronger ones, but the acting was of a high standard nonetheless.
David Whelan’s stand-out portrayal of ‘Francis Henshall’ was certainly the most memorable and impressive performance. An honourable mention must also go to Georgie Adams for her portrayal of the elderly waiter ‘Alfie’, her physical humour had the audience in hysterics as soon as she stepped on stage. The dedication to character was strong across the board.
The play is running two more shows, 22nd March and 23rd March at the YMCA, so I would definitely recommend catching one of them while you can. Act One are also raising money in aid of Alzheimer’s so be sure to take some loose change and help them with a good cause!