Theatre Review: One Man, Two Guvnors at the Grand Opera House

BY PETER McLOUGHLIN

From beginning to end, One Man, Two Guvnors is a brilliantly funny, enjoyable production. The cast are wonderful – particularly Rufus Hound and Edward Bennett; the script and characters, on the whole, delightfully balance the witty and the absurd. The costumes are vivid, the slap-stick well-timed and the stage production is first class. Between scenes a stellar band, and

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different members of the cast, take it in turns to perform short musical interludes. The show is on at the Grand Opera House until Saturday night, and students get 2 for 1 tickets. If you love comedy in any form, then One Man, Two Guvnors is the show to go to this weekend.

Rufus Hound orchestrates the whole production in his role as Francis Henshall – the man with two guvnors. He bounds about the stage, and interacts with the crowd with an endearing natural humour. The best laughs, and the funniest moments, came from this interaction – for the results in Belfast are never quite predictable. It is the sense of uniqueness too that develops from this – at one point the play was put on hold as the actors on stage were unable to contain themselves at two old men who were brought up from the front row. Hound seemed to really enjoy himself, and the audience loved him as a result.

As Rufus Hound’s role is as the link between the audience and the act on stage, his performance naturally stands out. But of the characters who remain, to a degree, within the bounds of the play’s narrative, Edward Bennett’s Stanley Stubbers left the biggest impression. Bennett plays a posh, boarding-school type, and though his lines are often the irreverent (soggy biscuit, anyone?), cheesy, innuendo-laden one-liners, his performance was so developed, so comically-nuanced, that he was the undoubted (other) star of the show.

Almost every character was well-balanced, and complemented their dramatic-counterparts very well. The one exception was the ‘dumb-blonde’ – and it is no reflection on the actress, Kellie Shirley, who played the character as well as could be expected. “I don’t understand,” was her catchphrase. And it wasn’t funny. It wasn’t the actress’s delivery; it was the clichéd, out-dated, one-dimensional character. The play is set in the 60’s, so perhaps the writer may be able to justify it by arguing some sort of historical context – although the two other female characters in the play are strong-willed people. Further, as a man in the audience, I find it baffling, and indeed unbelievable, to suggest that her fiancé in the play would find her appealing because she is ‘empty as a bucket’. The ‘dumb blonde’ doesn’t really affect the overall quality of the play, but it does affect the level of engagement the audience has with several of the characters.

Still, One Man, Two Guvnors is an undoubted success. The production is of the highest order, as mentioned. The first half is frantic, and the comedy rolls from moment to moment like waves – the audience were never quite finished laughing before they were started up again. The second half has the normal issues in sustaining the level of humour and originality while rounding everything off satisfactorily; but as I said, it succeeds. Almost every aspect of the show is full of charm, class and humour. Highly recommended.

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