Going to the theatre is something to do whilst at University here in Leicester that could be considered unusual for most students. Instead, we might go to the cinema or settle down with something that has been on our ‘to watch’ list on Netflix for several months. But with One Man, Two Guvnors playing at our resident theatre, Curve, Emily and I couldn’t miss out!

Emma Parton as Dolly, and Gavin Spokes as Francis Henshall.

We arrived at Curve, got our tickets and then soon after, took our seats to wait for the show to begin. But before the actors could take to the stage, a band called The Craze came on, playing songs originally by Grant Olding, extremely well. They were dressed in the sweetest maroon suits, taking the hearts of all the members of the audience in their talented hands. A few songs in, the show was ready to start.

From the get go, One Man, Two Guvnors was filled with instant charm and funny moments. I noticed immediately that, in their own way, each character had the most infectious stage presence and wit throughout. It is something I adore about comedic theatre – when you can’t take your eyes off a particular character because of their mannerisms and dramatic actions.

Down to Francis Henshall, main funny man and the ‘One Man’ of the show, throwing a peanut in the air then catching it with perfect charisma and swagger – it was moments like this that gave a hint of how entertaining and whacky the rest of the show was going to be.

But it wasn’t just Francis who really brought light and a real sense of hilarity to One Man, Two Guvnors. One of my personal favourites was Alan Dangle, played by Edward Hancock, who was, by profession in the storyline of the play, an actor. His particular mannerisms overplayed the stereotypical ‘arty actor’ that we might see in a dingy back street theatre in downtown Manhattan. His continuous stance, from poised body to comedic lunge, stole the laughter out of the mouths of the audience throughout his brilliant moments. Alan’s lines were delivered with clarity and authority, even; “I shall return like a storm, and everyone will get wet!” Even his sweetheart, Pauline (who was played by Jasmyn Banks), had the light air of ‘witty dumb blonde’ about her whilst still being a strong female lead in the play, a funny but somewhat refreshing character in the show.

One Man, Two Guvnors was based in1960’s Brighton, with very typical settings consisting of a pub (‘that serves lunch!’) called The Cricketers Arms, the famous Brighton Pier and a house belonging to Charlie ‘the Duck’ Clench, and his daughter, the aforementioned Pauline. These settings held a constant congregation of characters who played out the story of the deceased Roscoe Crabbe, and Francis’ purpose double booking.

Alicia Davies played Rachel Crabbe, the sister of Roscoe and girlfriend of Stanley Stubbers – the man who murdered Roscoe. It’s an interesting set up considering her boyfriend married her brother, but this made way for an interesting journey, filled with innuendos, mischievous mishaps and jokes that were so terrible that they were, in fact, hilarious. However, Davis was one of the best actors during the show. She managed to pull off the tough, masculine type when impersonating her brother, Roscoe, and then in an instant, she managed to switch to the extremely feminine Rachel. It was impressive how she managed to go from one to the other quickly, enthusiastically and professionally.

Between set changes and scenes, The Craze would take to the stage alone to play a song, or joined by cast members for renditions of Grant Olding songs. Alan joined them so he could play an instrument – his chest, slapping it profusely to the beat of the song, or Harry (Alan’s father) to sing and play a rather small-looking ukulele.

The humour that filled One Man, Two Guvnors was a type that I love; witty, quick and foolish – exactly the type of humour that you don’t have to think about; easy and great. Francis, played by Gavin Spokes, was a joy. He managed to get the audience to participate – even when they couldn’t think of anything worse – and keep up the jokes even when it might have been tough. Cue The Sandwich Incident…

During one of the scenes, Francis talks about his hunger after having not eaten for 16 hours. He dreams of sandwiches filled with pork and other mouth-watering fillings, until someone in the audience holds a sandwich and bravely offers it to the hungry character.

I don’t think he expected it – unless the production were taking all of us audience members for a ride – but he played along perfectly without hesitation, throwing jokes and witty comments at the sandwich-wielding audience member. In retaliation, he said, “Have you seen this play before? This is a bloody national theatre production, not panto! You know how this works right?” At every comment he uttered, the audience’s roars of laughter would grow louder and more urgent as they couldn’t believe what was happening – especially when Francis found out it was a hummus sandwich!

During one of the infamous ‘audience participation’ moments that included an audience member being drenched with fire extinguisher foam, Emily and I cringed in horror at the expense of poor Christine who got up to ‘hold Francis’ soup’. (Spoiler alert: Emily and I believe that she was an actress who played the part of the embarrassed audience member extremely well!) The audience loved every moment of the audience participation that they were not participating in. It was a combination of laughing miserably at someone else’s expense, while feeling their pain that made the audience participation – and the show as a whole – enjoyable and relaxing.

I can’t deny it – One Man, Two Guvnors was a show that I expected to walk away with confused thoughts, not knowing whether I actually enjoyed it or not. However, Emily and I sat back in our seats when the lights grew brighter in the room, both agreeing that it was an incredible show filled with talented actors who could not only sing and perform well, but also crack some great jokes that had the audience crying, choking and roaring with laughter from start to finish.

One Man, Two Guvnors, all in all, seemed to be a series of extremely hilarious yet unfortunate events that occurs in the complication of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. If you haven’t thought about seeing it yet – I’ll do the thinking for you: go and see it because rest assured, your time and money will be well spent.


Featured Image: Curve Online