Brighton rocks! Well, it does in the
1960s-set variation on Goldoni's theme of the resourceful servant
who endeavours to serve two masters at the same time. There's a
scriptural warning against such an attempt, if I'm not mistaken.
Richard Bean's One Man, Two Guvnors could best
be described as schizophrenic and, in Nicholas Hytner's National
Theatre production now on tour, even as downright sadistic.
Your reaction to these goings-on is
likely to be coloured by your appetite for watching ritual
humiliation, be that of unsuspecting audience members hauled up on
stage, an obvious "plant" in it or just the ferocious and unrelenting knockabout action. Perhaps I'm of a generation conditioned by newsreel
footage of the deliberate humiliation of victims perpetrated by the
Hitlerian and Cultural Revolution regimes, but most of this left a
sour taste in my mouth, for all the special pleading in the programme
Rufus Hound is the sorely-tried
factotum Francis Henshall caught up through his own greed in the
Kray-style disputes of the Clench and Crabbe families. He knows how
to work an audience and has the professional comedian's art of turning on-stage
mishaps into successes. Peter Caulfield's applause-winning turn as
the doddering old waiter Alfie, Edward Bennett's gung-ho Stanley
Stubbers (a dab hand with a cricket bat), Rosie Wyatt's
cross-dressing Rachel Crabbe and Leon Williams as the OTT wannabe
thespian Alan Dangle are all impressive within this context.
How much you enjoy it all is, for me at
any rate, a matter of appreciating the performers for their pure
efficiency and obvious commitment to what is by any standards an
exhausting display of theatrical skill. Physical theatre at its best,
then – but also pushing hard at its boundary with the unacceptable. To the
actors and musicians then, I would have no hesitation in awarding
them five stars. But as a piece of unalloyed entertainment, that
total has to reduce to...