Review: One Man, Two Guvnors is a clown jewel of a comedy

Hasland Theatre Company's production of One Man, Two Guvnors. Pictured left to right are Dave Banks,  Lilly Beards,  James Bryan and  Steve Cowley. Photo by Graham Martin.
Hasland Theatre Company's production of One Man, Two Guvnors. Pictured left to right are Dave Banks, Lilly Beards, James Bryan and Steve Cowley. Photo by Graham Martin.

Comedy is a hard act to master but Hasland Theatre Company makes an admirable job of it.

Laughs aplenty are served up by colourful characters in this week’s show which stands out for its physicality and audience participation.

One Man, Two Guvnors is laced with so much humour that it’s hard to pick out the best bits among the wealth of funny scenes.

Steve Cowley dominates the proceedings as Francis Henshall, one-time minder who finds himself out of a job when his boss is murdered. The story is set in Brighton of the Sixties where Francis lands work serving two masters who have a connection but are unaware that each other is his employer.

Francis is ruled by his belly first and foremost and in an early scene is flicking peanuts into the air when he tumbles backwards in an armchair as he desperately tries to catch one.

As hunger pangs kick in, he asks the audience for any treats which they may have brought - relieving one viewer of a packet of biscuits at the opening performance last night (Monday, January 23).

On another occasion, two spectators are commandeered to help move a heavy trunk on stage.

Steve’s exaggerated facial expressions and body language turn Francis into a lovable clown but also one which is vulnerable as he grips the pocket flaps on his jacket in times of stress.

Stuart Rooker, playing Alffie the 80-something waiter, ramps up the comedy as he shuffles across the stage with hands trembling, gets hit in the face several times by a door opening and winds up falling backwards off a pier into the sea.

Tom Bannister is delightful as posh boy Stanley Stubbers, on the run from police for murdering Francis’s boss. He has in tow the murdered man’s twin sister Rachel Crabbe (played by Rebbekah Clewlow) who is disguised as her brother - confusing or what?

In another twist to the story, a pair of young star-crossed sweethearts also have a rocky relationship. Lilly Beards plays the nice but dim Pauline Clench and James Bryan is cast as the over-dramatic aspiring actor Alan.

Relationship advice is delivered in asides to the audience by Nicky Beards in the role of busty book-keeper Dolly who eventually gets her man, a trip to Majorca and a couple of weeks’ paid holiday.

One Man, Two Guvnors is the first comedy to be directed by Heather Cowley who chairs the company. The production continues its run at Hasland Playhouse on Storforth Lane until Saturday, January 28.