One Man Two Guvnors (Tour-Bath Theatre Royal)

One Man Two Guvnors is as much of a delight as its ever been at Bath Theatre Royal.

Gavin Spokes (Francis Henshall) in One Man Two Guvnors.
Gavin Spokes (Francis Henshall) in One Man Two Guvnors.
© Johan Persson

Arriving in Bath as part of a mammoth UK tour, One Man Two Guvnors shows that the production delights even after the shadow that original star James Corden has long since gone. Richard Bean‘s version of Goldoni’s A Servant of Two Masters is a paean to the vaudeville’s of British comedy past, of Carry On and Ealing Comedies. Over two and a half hours the audience are carried into a state of blissfull euphoria, as we see Francis Henshall’s attempts to juggle a job with two masters, the posh toff killer Stanley Stubbers (Patrick Warner) and his girlfriend Rachel Crabbe (Alicia Davies) who has disguised herself as her twin brother Roscoe, who it just so happens was the man Stanley has killed. With loveable gangsters, busty love interests and an over the top actor all ingredients are in place to deliver a stunning concoction of English comedy one thought lost.

This is my third time seeing the production firstly with irresistible James Corden and then the very Welsh, boyish Owain Arthur but Gavin Spokes is more then a match. Perhaps less of a natural comedian then the other two, he may be the best actor of the three and he imbues Francis with a warm hearted, balletic grace that brings the audience onside immediately. It’s a beast of a role, the comedy version of playing Hamlet, and he throws himself around the stage with verve and energy to burn. Whether joshing with the audience, tumbling over an armchair or banging himself on the head with a trash can at no point does he flag.By the curtain call he looks visibly exhausted. He’s conquered his own Everest!

One Man… hits its peak at the end of the first half when Alfie (Michael Dylan) the 87 year old waiter with arthritic limbs and an unfortunate penchant for standing behind soon to be swung open doors makes his entrance. Like Michael Frayn’s similar showstopping Act 2 in Noises Off the play would take its place on this set piece alone, often in theatre comedy is met with a polite laugh, here people are rolling in the aisles. Nothing in the second half can match that peak and so it does tail off but it doesn’t matter, it has achieved the rarest of things in delighting an audience.

Adam Penford‘s revival of Nicholas Hytner's original production draws strong performances across the board but particular standouts are the two ‘masters’ who end up almost inevitably with their trousers round their ankles, Emma Barton as Dolly, the pneumatic love interest who croons beautifully and Shaun Williamson who is leaving his Eastenders and Extras persona behind to create a nice little sideline in leading No1 tours of big West End shows.

As delightful as its ever been. If you’ve never been, go! If you’ve seen it before, you know you need to go again.

One Man Two Guvnors plays on tour in Bath until the 20th September and then continues tour the UK until the 15th March 2015