It’s a Psychology 101 fact that we spectators have an instinct to create order out of chaos, to notice patterns or connections or some sort of overall plan in situations where there may or may not be. This instinct is a fundamental drive, perhaps even a pleasurable experience, and one that I believe is at the heart of good ol’ fashioned farce.
So, when in nearly every scene of One Man, Two Guvnors, everything seems to be going completely out of hand, there’s an incredibly enjoyable realization that, in fact, the cast and crew, led by James Corden, actually has everything in complete control.
Corden, a well-known comedian in his native Britain (and one of the best guest stars of the 2005-present Doctor Who revival) plays Francis Henshall, a slow-minded lackey looking for easy money, a good sandwich, and a pretty girl. He is hired by the thuggish Roscoe Crabbe (Jemima Rooper) who is forcing dim-witted debutante Pauline (Claire Lams) into marriage to collect her dowry. The big secret is, however, that Roscoe is really Rachel, Roscoe’s twin sister, and Roscoe is dead, killed by Stanley (Oliver Chris), who is Rachel’s lover. Stanley is also in town, looking for a lackey, and hires Francis. Now Francis must keep his dual employment a secret and prevent one “guvnor” from meeting the other, even though they are actually looking for each other. Hilarious antics ensue.
Thrown into the messy mix are the show’s house band “The Craze,” which helps set the stage for the frivolous 60’s era, Brighton-set plot. During pre-show, intermission, and set changes, “The Craze” plays early rock/pop songs- simple songs expressing simple feelings with catchy tunes. “The Craze” celebrates all those frivolous notions of love and character that OMTG pokes fun at, and is really a wonderful and energy-inducing addition to the show.
Also highly featured is the show’s audience participation. At three separate moments of the show, Corden interacts with audience members. Erm. Wait. Actually, that statement is not entirely correct. This requires a second post. In fact, I need my review partner to see the show first so we can do a discussion post. Get on it, Kate!
Among the major players, all are equally lovable, riveting, and hilarious. Oliver Chris’s sneering aristocratic and great comedic timing make every line a jem. Jemima Rooper is sultry as Roscoe, darling as Rachel. Claire Lams and Daniel Rigby, as Pauline true love- an equally dim-witted and narcissistic actor, are both show highlights. Tom Edden also steals his scenes as waiter Alfie and Suzanna Toase makes a refreshing forward-thinking Dolly.
One Man, Two Guvnors is playing at the Music Box Theatre through September.