There is a certain pair of shoes I would not want to fill as an actor; James Corden as Francis Henshall is that pair. Taking over from the mighty Corden in One Man Two Guvnors was always going to be a tough act and Rufus Hound isn’t going to escape comparison. However, this is one review where he will, because this was my first time at the show.
The Theatre Royal Haymarket is one of my favourite London theatres and this is the ideal production to stage here. Set in Brighton, in 1963, this production is gloriously silly with lowbrow humour and heaps of physical jokes. The warmth you get from the theatre itself is matched by the skiffle band, The Craze, who warm the audience up with some seriously uplifting songs written by Grant Olding. Watching this show, I was wrapped up in a slice of Music Hall! The Craze are marvellous and their regular interludes of music kept the whole theatre alive and this energy was never lost. You have to bear in mind that this genre of theatre is extremely difficult to master in both script and direction but Nicholas Hytner makes it look a doddle.
Rufus Hound has a wonderful rapport with the audience and his unscripted interaction with some of the audience members, is witty and very funny. He has the cheeky charm of Stan Laurel and even though Francis Henshall isn’t the brightest button, he is still our hero which Hound definitely conveys. His limited stage experience has been widely commented upon and I felt that at times he would slip into being Rufus and not Francis. This happened during the imporvised sections with audience interaction, but even so he displays brilliant comic physicality and timing.
Which leads me onto Cal McCrystal, the physical comedy director who certainly has his work cut out and yet he doesn’t miss a trick. There is not a single trip, turn or twist in this production that hasnt been planned to perfection. This is particularly apparent with Alfie, the ancient waiter played by Martin Barrass. Barrass is fantastic, his facial expressions are amazing and he always got the loudest laughs from the audience. I would go and see the show in a heartbeat just to watch his performance once more!
If you love a British farce, a panto, a clever witty script or just a great night out, then One Man Two Guvnors is the show for you.
Reviewed by Josephine Kime @josephinekime
Wednesday 27th February 2013