Review: One Man, Two Guvnors

Ciara Cohen Ennis gives a glowing review of Infinity Stage Company’s production of the classic comedy ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’, a play by Richard Bean.

Infinity Stage Company’s One Man, Two Guvnors was a hilarious and enjoyable piece of theatre from start to finish. Set in the 1960s, it tells the story of how Francis Henshall (Euan Codrington) manages to acquire two ‘guvnors’. One being Rachel Crabb (Zoe Head), in disguise as her late gangster brother Roscoe, and the other, Stanley Stubbers (Tom Inman), a posh boarding school bloke who Rachel is in a relationship with – despite him killing her brother! Head gives a comedic performance in disguise as Roscoe, with amusing facial expressions and a low tone of voice. The accents were consistently strong throughout the play, which is no mean feat, as Guild performances can often seem particularly amateur if the accents are shaky.

James Corden has previously played Francis Henshall, and although I haven’t seen the West End version, I imagine that Codrington gives Corden a run for his money. Codrington is constantly running around the stage trying to serve his two guvnors while keeping the two of them apart so they don’t catch on that he has two employers. His energy and stamina is impressive, particularly in the scene where he has a physical fight with himself, choreographed by Jessica Barber. Codrington pulls his own hair, slaps himself across the face, strangles himself till he falls on the floor, and then hits himself over the head with a bin lid. If that’s not commitment to drama then I don’t know what is.

Inman is another standout cast member. His portrayal of Stanley is absolutely hilarious and constantly has the audience in stitches. It turns out that he edited the script to say that he was at Harrow, instead of its rival Eton. Inman certainly had some great lines to work with such as ‘I wouldn’t trust a Spaniard alone with a Swiss roll’ and the not-quite-swear-words, ‘buggerello!’ and ‘country life!’

The play was very well cast, with strong performances from Brad Carpenter as the slightly clueless Charlie Clench, and Hannah Dunlop as his ditzy daughter Pauline. Pauline and Alan Dangle (Lucas Rushton) provided an entertaining subplot. Pauline was engaged to the late Roscoe, but since thinking he had died she entered into a relationship with actor Alan. Dunlop and Rushton were almost caricatures; Dunlop with her exaggerated blinking and Rushton with his hammy melodramatic declarations of love.

I can’t go without mentioning the audience interaction. Charlotte Boyer was selected from the audience to guard Henshall’s stash of food. She proceeded to be a very good sport by going up on stage, being forced to hide under a table, and then soaked with a bucket of water. I’m told that the amount of water increased each night. After the interval Boyer emerged from backstage in a much needed dressing gown.

The sixties costumes were great, especially for the female characters. Dolly (Olivia O’Neill) had a pink cardigan wrapped over her shoulders, and Pauline wore a cute floral dress. The elderly Alfie (Ben Evans) emerged complete with the classic Guild Drama talcum powder hair dye. This provided additional comedy at points when Lloyd (Charlie Harris) rubbed Alfie’s head and got talc all over his hands, and when Alfie fell on the floor he was engulfed in a cloud of talc.  The play was really entertaining, and James Harrington and Will Poysner did an excellent job of directing. It was telling that extra seating had to be brought in for the final performance because so many people wanted to see the show.

All proceeds of the play will go to Dignity in Care at the QE Hospital.

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