One Man, Two Guvnors is an explosion of farce that leaves you in stitches. Set in the sixties, with a complex but simple plot, it tells the story of Rachel (Alicia Davies), who is posing as her dead twin brother in order to get the money owed to him. With the money, she can escape with her boyfriend, Stanley (Patrick Warner), who is also her brother’s murderer.
In the middle of this is Francis (Gavin Spokes), who takes a job with Stanley for the chance of a decent meal, and he must keep Rachel and Stanley apart so that they won’t discover that he’s working for them both. He is one man, with two governors.
Although the start of the performance is slightly dull, consisting mostly of exposition and introduction, it picks up pace in the third scene. Initially the Brighton dialect is hard to understand, and some cultural references are lost on the younger audience. There are, however, plenty references to The Beatles. The transitions between the scenes are very good: with a band named ‘The Craze’ taking the stage with 60s style rock music, occasionally joined by the cast, filling the time between the impressive set-changes.
None of the characters are particularly likable, although Alan (Edward Hancock), the would-be actor, stands out for his overdramatic flair. At times the play resembles a pantomime rather than a National Theatre production, with cross-dressing and involvement from the audience; something the ensemble themselves remark upon. The cast, especially Francis, break the forth wall, and there are striking elements of meta-theatre. Francis, who is motivated by hunger in the first half, starts the second half by asking the audience if anyone has contemplated what his character’s motivation will be in this part of the play, considering he has now been fed.
One Man, Two Guvnors is a manic, highly satirical and self-satirising play, leaving you with the overall impression is that it is perhaps all a little overdone, but it is done purposefully so.