REVIEW: One Man, Two Guvnors lives up to hype

James Corden stars in One Man, Two Guvnors. Photo: Johan Persson
James Corden stars in One Man, Two Guvnors. Photo: Johan Persson

IT was opening night for One Man, Two Guvnors at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre on Tuesday, and to be honest I feel bad reviewing it, writes David Moth.

The reason being that Two Guvnors is so hilariously funny that I feel a bit sorry for anybody reading this who doesn’t have a ticket for its sell-out run.

It’s unusual for any show to play to a packed theatre on a Tuesday night, but armed with James Corden’s celebrity pulling power and rave reviews from its run at The National Theatre, One Man, Two Guvnors is not your run-of-the-mill comedy.

As I entered the auditorium to the sounds of a live skiffle band whose upbeat songs entertained during set changes, there was an atmosphere of anticipation as the audience sensed they were going to see something special.

And from the opening scene where the villainous Roscoe apparently rises from the dead to ruin his former fiancé’s engagement party, Two Guvnors exceeded my lofty expectations.

The plot follows James Corden, who is absolutely brilliant as Francis Henshall, as he juggles the different errands he is tasked with by his two bosses.

Love stories, murder plots and Henshall’s search for a sandwich intertwine to create a classic farce with some cracking set pieces.

Corden is definitely the star of the performance and he is far more likeable on stage than he was in his ill-judged sketch show.

The script is the perfect showcase for his slapstick skills, allowing him to interact with the audience, charge about on stage, and, in one memorable scene, have a fist fight with himself.

But the rest of the cast are from hangers on.

They give uniformly excellent performances with perfect comic timing, and it’s obvious that they have as much fun larking about on stage as the audience does watching them.

It’s hard to pick a favourite character as they’re all so funny, so I’ll be greedy and go for three - Oliver Chris steals every scene he is in as the plummy, public school educated, Stanley Stubbers. His one liners had me in stitches time and time again.

And hammy drama queen Alan, played by Daniel Rigby, is fabulously OTT and I feel that Rigby’s performance was somewhat under-appreciated by the Aylesbury audience who didn’t seem to find his camp gestures and foppish rage as funny as I did.

Last but not least, Tom Edden’s performance as the octogenarian waiter Alfie had the whole auditorium, and some of the actors, crying with laughter.

Alfie only appears in a couple of scenes, one of which is up there with the funniest pieces of comedy I’ve ever seen.

It’s a classic setup - Corden’s two guvnors are dining in rooms at opposite sides of the stage and he can’t let either of them know he is also working for the other one.

The jokes and slapstick come thick and fast as Corden dishes up the food with Alfie’s assistance, while trying to help himself to the lion’s share.

The scene crackles along for about 15 minutes and had me laughing so hard I was gasping for air.

After the hilarity of the first half the action that ensues after the intermission almost seems like a disappointment.

I say almost as the second half is not really a disappointment - it is still extremely funny and filled with memorable jokes, but it is impossible to match the laugh-out-loud hilarity of the first half.

In fact there’s so many brilliantly funny moments in One Man, Two Guvnors that I could ramble on for ages, but I wouldn’t want to ruin all the jokes for those of you who are lucky enough to have tickets.

And for those who don’t have tickets, I urge you to buy yourself an early Christmas present and book to see it when it returns to the West End in November.

One Man, Two Guvnors is showing at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre until Saturday, October 1. Unfortunately all performances are sold out.