Last night saw the second performance in a five day run of DU Players’ production of Richard Bean’s ‘One Man, Two Guvnors,’ directed by Imo Redpath and Neil O’Flanagan. Set to the backdrop of a sitting room scene reminiscent of the 1960’s colour craze, the play opens with a party scene in which all primary characters are in attendance. It is an engagement party for Pauline and Alan, who are soon to become star-crossed lovers. With a healthy sized crowd ready to go, the show begins with a steady pace that is set to never return for the duration of the two hours. Although it is not very clear as to what the plot entails in the beginning, the story and relationships of the characters are soon revealed with the character of Francis Henshall leading as our protagonist. It is with Francis that we travel through 1963 and the dramatics that ensue for both himself and his two guvnors who he desperately tries to entertain, all while keeping them blind to the other’s existence. Partner this with a conquest for love, mistaken identity and the struggle to satiate his hunger, and you have the bizarre play that is ‘One Man, Two Guvnors.’
Despite what seems like a long period of time to be seated, the lines are delivered quickfire and the scenes rapidly chase one after the other. It almost makes the audience want to pause for a moment to breathe as we watch the cast thrust themselves in all directions as they vigorously maintain the energy of the performance, a constant one hundred and ten percent. Of course, there are a couple of hiccups along the way like a prop not doing what it’s told, or indeed a fake mustache refusing to commit to the role as much as its chosen actor. These are the realities of live performance. However, not once did it throw any of the performers who courageously followed through the minor mishaps that added to the general hilarity of the show.
One of the best features of this piece is the engagement of the audience in the lunacy of action on stage. Unwitting members of the crowd, including myself at one point, were subject to participation in the movement of the scene and dialogue, providing the actors with brief moments of improv which resulted in roars of laughter that bounced off the walls of the theatre. From the eccentric one-liners which seem to roll off Stubbers’ tongue to Alan’s melodramatic and not so eloquent monologues, this play provides one with two hours worth of caricatures of stereotyped personalities and ‘Laurel and Hardy’ style slapstick comedy. If you’re not going for the extremely talented cast that has clearly put in a tremendous amount of work, then go for the laughs because I assure you there won’t be a silent second for the length of this performance.