A night filled with chaos, laughter, and audience participation set the stage for one of TG's most memorable shows yet.
Since One Man, Two Guvnors debuted in 2011 with James Corden (sorry to mention him) as none other than leading man Francis, TG have have staged this show twice. In 2019, our reviewers described the show as “a good old-fashioned romp sprinkled with great production [and]powerful performances”, and in this 2023 rendition it’s all of this and so much more. Directors Soraya Fahmy and Sophie Gardner, along with the help of Fletcher Stafford, have knocked it out of the pub, delivering another stellar TG performance.
A show steeped in slapstick comedy, One Man, Two Guvnors follows the story of Francis Henshall (played by Xander Searson) as he becomes employed by two “men”, the issue is, neither of them know about the other. A dramatic story unfolds as Francis tries his best to eat, love, and pull the wool over everyone’s eyes.
We enter the house of patriarch Charlie ‘the Duck’ (Robin Mooney) as he celebrates the engagement of his daughter, blonde bimbo Pauline (Emily Dennis), to amateur actor Alan Dangle (Nathaniel O’Shea). As all engagements go in any comedy, inevitably unexpected arrivals throw a spanner in the works, and chaos quickly ensues. From those opening moments, the actors set the stage and cue the laughter with audience favourites like Dennis, who immediately establishes herself as a scene-stealer with her perfect cockney accent and humorous facial expressions. That’s not to say anyone else was left in the dark. O’Shea was delightfully melodramatic; Mooney nailed the aging eccentricity of being left at the altar, aka. in Brighton; Saskia Bindloss’s rendition of questionable lawyer, Harry, was marvellous and deftly comical; and we’ll get to the others later!
It’s not till the arrival of Emily Baldock’s Rachel, (who’s actually pretending to be their dizygotic twin, Roscoe Crabbe), that things quickly turn pear-shaped. Thriving on chaos and seven-course meals, this out-of-hand premise actually managed to confuse two very well-read literature students and so we think it’s best we stop describing the plot (just trust us, it’s funny). What we can say is that Baldock embraces the quirky gender-bending comedy that is the Crabbe twins, thoroughly hoodwinking the characters in a humorously believable portrayal. Although, just like the shows laughs, its characters come thick and fast, much like the boarding school days of Ben Mansell’s Stanley. Mansell’s upper-class twitness always garnered laughter and plenty of innuendos that only he could have pulled off ;).
What’s a show without its star though? Two Guvnors? No, it’s still One Man, Two Guvnors, because Searson absolutely kills it as the leading man (leaving Corden in his shame). There’s fourth-wall breaking, personality crisis, and a whole lot of flapping about that only Searson could do justice. He was outstanding! We hope Searson continues gracing the stage with his presence. However, Searson helps shine thanks to his on-stage love interest, Dolly (Megan Jones). Jones in particular imbues Dolly with a quick-witted charm, keeping Francis up to his eyes in love and constantly on his toes, while easily becoming the most endearing, and dare we say, real, character in the show. We can’t forget, the remaining cast and characters, all equally worth their merit. The late addition of superstar Nic Cage (or was it Jessica Laws-Robinson?), showed their longstanding TG wisdom, where they entered the role of Lloyd and brought a flare mastered only by the greats (I mean, come on, it’s Nic Cage!). Then there was Mika Woods’, Alfie, an elderly accident-prone man, whose uncanny physical comedy and bent-back velociraptor-style physicality had people howling and anticipation their on-stage return. Rounding up the cast was Charlotte Connelly’s ensemble extravaganza that saw her channel a host of characters (one such character begrudging their few lines), demonstrating there are no small characters when you put on a performance like hers; and Louis Cleave’s Gareth who held one of the show’s most comedic and chaotic scene together!
A show like this couldn’t happen without its set and technical crew, all doing justice to the charm of student theatre while transporting us to where we needed to be: 1963 Brighton. While scene changes were long, it gave ample opportunities for audiences to hoot, dance, and replay their favourite moments in their memories, and trust us, every moment was a favourite of someone.
When the show climaxed and the curtain closed, the raucous applause from the audience told us that this wasn’t a show that only we had enjoyed. One Man, Two Guvnors, is a celebration through and through, bringing together phenomenal performances, great theatre, and a night to remember.
One Man, Two Guvnors is playing in The Annex until Saturday 25th March. You can reserve your tickets here.