Review: One Man, Two Guvnors

Sunday 07th, September 2014 / 15:53
By Sara Elizabeth Taylor

Theatre Calgary presents the Canadian premiere of this hilarious British comedy

Kevin Corey (Francis Henshall), left, and Tyrell Crews (Stanley Stubbers) in Theatre Calgary's One Man, Two Guvnors.   Photo: Trudie Lee

Kevin Corey (Francis Henshall), left, and Tyrell Crews (Stanley Stubbers) in Theatre Calgary’s One Man, Two Guvnors.
Photo: Trudie Lee

CALGARY — Quirky characters. Hilarious misunderstandings. Slapstick physical humour. These pillars of British comedy have never come together more brilliantly than in the riotous One Man, Two Guvnors, a Tony Award-winning comedy making its Canadian premiere with Theatre Calgary this month.

Francis Henshall (Kevin Corey) is skint and starving. Desperate to earn some money, he agrees to take on two separate jobs. The first is with Roscoe Crabbe (Julie Orton) – but Roscoe is actually dead, and Henshall is serving Roscoe’s twin, Rachel, who is in disguise as her deceased brother in order to collect a debt that is owed to him so she can run away with her lover. The second is Stanley Stubbers (Tyrell Crews), who coincidentally is the lover Rachel is seeking, and, as he also happens to be the one who murdered Roscoe, is hiding out under the name Dustin Pubsign.

Confused yet? So is Henshall, and so begins his attempts to not screw up both jobs just enough to keep them.

Along the way, Henshall meets a series of characters that each adds their own spice to the mix. There’s the tortured artist Alan (Stafford Perry), whose teenage-esque attempts at poetic depth kept the audience roaring, and his sweet but hilariously dim intended Pauline (Allison Lynch). There’s the positively decrepit Alfie (Trevor Rueger), whom Henshall meets on his first day as a waiter. And of course, there’s the feisty feminist Dolly (Rebecca Northan), who acts as Henshall’s motivation during the second act.

Though all the characters drew roars from the audience, Corey absolutely stole the show as Francis Henshall. The moment he appeared onstage, you just knew that this was going to be a character you were going to love laughing at, and Corey lived up to that first impression throughout with his skillful physical comedy and his fourth-wall-breaking jokes.

If a zany plot and quirky characters was all that One Man, Two Guvnors had to offer, it would simply be a funny British comedy. Instead, between the musical interludes that provide a throwback to Brighton in 1963, and the playful audience engagement that leads to more than a few surprises, One Man, Two Guvnors is brilliantly elevated to a unique can’t-miss theatre experience.

One Man, Two Guvnors is by Richard Bean, based on The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni, and features songs by Grant Olding. It is directed for Theatre Calgary by Dean Paul Gibson, and runs at the Max Bell Theatre until September 28th.

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