A night at the theatre: One Man Two Guvnors

It would seem that cultured nights out are like buses, you wait for ages for one and then two come along at once. After my night at the opera this weekend, it was the theatre on Monday night. This time it was One Man Two Guvnors at the Haymarket.
The last time I went to the theatre was back in April when my boyfriend queued up for day tickets for The Audience (he didn’t get day tickets in the end as he was too far back in the queue despite getting up ridiculously early but he did manage to get some returns). I love theatre though. Having been in the county youth theatre for a number of years when I was younger there’s something magical about the stage for me. I no longer act (I really wasn’t very good at it but I loved my drama friends), but I love going to see plays both familiar and unfamiliar.
Unfortunately, going to the theatre isn’t cheap. I don’t really qualify for any of the concessions anymore ie. under 25 discounted tickets, and the hours of my desk job preclude me from buying day tickets. So I don’t get to go as often as I would like. Last summer I managed two Ibsens; A Doll’s House at the Young Vic and Hedda Gabler at the Old Vic, but very little since.
One Man Two Guvnors was the hot theatre topic when it opened in 2011. So I’m particularly late to this party. It’s achieved popular and critical acclaim, both with James Cordon and Owain Arthur in the lead role as Francie Henshall. Fired from his skiffle band, Francis Henshall becomes minder to Roscoe Crabbe. But Roscoe is really Rachel, posing as her own dead brother – who’s been killed by her boyfriend Stanley Stubbers. Francis spots the chance of an extra meal ticket and takes a job with one Stanley Stubbers – but to prevent discovery, he must keep his two guvnors apart. 
A Timeout offer (unfortunately no longer available) meant that tickets were half price, so I immediately bought vouchers for two tickets. 

So, on Monday we trotted along and exchanged our vouchers for tickets. I’d opted for ‘Band B’ tickets as a nice middle-ground and we ended up third row back in the Royal Circle which is one level up from the stalls. We were also nicely placed on the end of the middle block of seats so had the aisle for stretching legs out into. It’s a cosy theatre and you don’t feel overpowered by the scale, it feels intimate, which for this kind of show was perfect.

It was only once we were in the theatre that I realised that I had been there before to see The Tempest starring Ralph Fiennes in 2011, although we’d been sat in the stalls for that so I think the scale of things felt different and we were in a different bar, although it’s amazing how the set can also really change the feel of a theatre.

About 15 minutes before the show started a live skiffle band, The Craze, played a few numbers:

They were to become a recurring theme throughout the night, making regular appearances and evolving into something more Fab Four by the end. 
They’re good, so get there early, get settled into your seats and enjoy a pre-show show. I checked out their Twitter page afterwards and it looks like they don’t do any gigs in their own right, which is definitely a shame. 

Once the show kicked off it took me maybe five or ten minutes to get into it and the style. I’ve never seen a play which not only breaks the fourth wall but actually smashes it completely. I don’t want to spoil anything, you really do have to go and see it, but I must say that the cast has an amazing ability to keep the show and the lines fresh and at times it’s difficult to know what’s planned and what’s improvisation or spontaneous and genuine reaction (search afterwards on Google to find out the truth).

The first half is when the action happens and Owain Arthur commands the show, there’s something about the glee on his face that made me laugh ridiculously hard. The first act culminates in the last scene where Francis has to keep his two guvnors apart. A combination of physical comedy and some genius lines actually left me both in stiches and in shock.

In contrast to the first act, the second act is shorter and feels like it’s just tying up the story a bit, although there are laughs, it doesn’t reach the heights of the first act.

We had a really good night and if you haven’t yet seen it I would definitely advise you see it. The show is booking until 1st March 2014, so you have some time left if you want to buy tickets. Tickets start from £15.