Based on ‘The Servant Of Two Masters’ by Carlo Goldoni
Directed by Chris Baldock
Canberra REP at Theatre 3 to 2 December
Reviewed by Len Power 16 November 2018
If laughter is the best medicine, everyone who attended Canberra REP’s opening night of ‘One Man Two Guvnors’ would be feeling really well now. Chris Baldock’s wickedly funny production of this clever adaptation of Goldoni’s 18th century Commedia del’arte play, ‘A Servant Of Two Masters’, gets everything right.
Instead of period Italy, the play takes place in 1963 Brighton, England, where out of work skiffle player, Francis, finds himself with two employers and desperately needs to keep them from meeting each other. In true farce tradition, complications arise and build to a crazy climax. By then you won’t care about the plot – you’ll just be hanging out to see what madness the expert cast will come up with next.
Arran McKenna as the ‘servant’, Francis Henshall, dominates the play with a winning performance that is technically assured, amazingly physical and hysterically funny. Paul Sweeney and Patrick Galen-Mules are excellent as the two very different and quirky ‘masters’ and Meaghan Stewart is a riotous revelation in the complex role of Rachel Crabbe.
Brenton Cleaves as the actor wannabee, Alan Dangle, is divinely awful and Holly Ross is a fabulously dim Pauline Clench. Michael Cooper nearly stops the show with his perfect timing in the knockabout role of old Alfie and Declan James is the very amusing long-suffering and world weary Gareth. Steph Roberts is deliciously frowsy as the man-eating Dolly and Patrick Collins and Marc Mowbray-d’Abela are great fun, too.
Annabel Foulds, Antonia Kitzel and Mark Ritchie as the Ensemble have their individual moments to shine and they give great seagull, too.
The skiffle band of Nick Dennis, Peter McDonald and Hayley Manning set the atmosphere for the show with their toe-tapping tunes and they were joined by various members of the cast who entertained during the scene changes.
The complex set, designed by the director, is attractive and works very well and Helen Drum’s costumes nicely evoke the early 1960s period.
Chris Baldock has given us a finely directed show reminiscent of the great English comedians and their signature acts of the 20th Century. If you need a laugh, you’re guaranteed to get it here.
Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast in his ‘On Stage’ performing arts radio program on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3.30pm on Artsound FM 92.7.