REVIEW: One Man,Two Guv’nors @ National Theatre streaming

Brian Butler April 5, 2020

The National Theatre’s initiative in streaming some of its archived productions is proving a golden treasury of drama for those of us locked out of our normal second  home – the theatre .

Its first offering – available till Wednesday 8 April – is Richard Bean’s modern take on Goldoni’s 18th century farce A Servant of Two Masters – moved to 1963 Brighton , actually, and re-named One Man Two Guv’nors. Directed brilliantly by Nicholas Hytner it  is a roller-coaster of fun and frolics.

And it’s much more than the obvious brilliant showcase for the verbal and physical dexterity of James Corden as its Harlequin-type ani-hero Francis.

It’s a rollicking tale of love, deceit, the search for happiness and above all, eating .

From the pre-show bootleg Beatles playing of the skiffle/rock group The Craze, you know you’re in for a treat.

The plot – unbelievably complicated and at times bewildering, is about a hapless man who through deception, confusion and sheer stupidity , ends up serving two masters of very different characteristics. Can Francis satisfy the similar but contradictory requirements of  Roscoe/ Rachel, ( played with immaculate transvestite style by Jemma Rooper ) , and super smooth public school idiot murderer Stanley, played with Ripping Yarns aplomb by Oliver Chris ?

The answers is kind of “ yes “ and even the audience plays a part in keeping the increasingly manic Corden on the straight and narrow , though one apparent audience member is actually part of the cast.

Even Rottingdean and its am dram company gets a mention , and the slightly sleazy nature of the seaside hideaway is a great backdrop.

Claire Lams is deliciously stupid as Pauline, who misinterprets  everything and whose eternal answer is “ I don’t understand “ . Her love interest , aspiring actor Alan , is played with swaggering imbecility by Daniel Rigby and the company as a whole plays brilliantly both physically and verbally as the pace gathers speed and the complexities multiply.

Corden is clearly having the time of his life and it’s  a fitting curtain up on what promises to be a highly rewarding shining  season of plays – Jane Eyre is up next – so go to the National’s YouTube or Facebook pages for more information.

And don’t forget to make a donation to keep live theatre live.