One Man, Two Guvnors review

Sadly it looks like there won’t be any live theatre for a few weeks yet, so (like many other frustrated theatre bloggers) I thought I’d write about a few of the plays that are appearing online during the lockdown.

Where better to start than with Richard Bean’s much-garlanded adaptation of The Servant of Two Masters by the C18th Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni.

I was lucky enough to see this National Theatre production twice: with James Corden (2011), and later Owain Arthur (2012), in the lead role of Francis Henshall, a gluttonous minder who ends up juggling jobs for a gangster and a toff in 1963 Brighton.

At the time, I thought this was the funniest thing I’d ever seen in a theatre. Yes, even more mirth-inducing than Noises Off or The Chuckle Brothers’ Doctor What and the Return of the Garlics.

So did it still make me laugh when I streamed the Corden version off YouTube onto my bedroom telly? The answer is yes, but not as much as I expected. It felt half an hour too long, and I longed for the raucous experience of seeing it with a live audience.

That said, Corden’s slapstick performance is sublime, the audience participation sequences are superb and the musical interludes are, er, infectious.

The play also contains what – in my uncultured opinion – is one of the greatest lines ever written for the English stage:

“Love passes through marriage faster than shit through a small dog.”

Richard Bean’s new play Jack Absolute Flies Again (written with Guvnor cast member Oliver Chris) was due to have opened at the National Theatre this month. Let’s hope we get to see it soon.

One Man, Two Guvnors can be watched on YouTube until 9 April