I have honestly never seen anything funnier than “One Man, Two Guvnors”.
I was invited very last minute by a friend a few Thursdays ago and I accepted the invitation without really knowing much about it. I did the standard Googling and the reviews were ridiculous – 5 stars from every reputable source, “Undoubtedly the funniest show to be seen in the land”, “I had tears rolling down my face”, “Sheer joyous pandemonium”, “One of the funniest productions in the National’s history”, “Pure comic bliss”, “Pure comic gold” (I know, odd repetition) … I could not imagine how something could be funny enough to be worthy of these rave reviews.
I turned up at the National feeling quite sceptical about what the evening had to hold.
There was quite a bizarre atmosphere in the theatre as the play was being filmed and streamed live on television. Some people thought this was a bad thing but it didn’t bother me at all, it was only mildly bizarre having a camera pretty much on my shoulder.
It started with a few songs from The Craze. In my usual guilty until proven innocent way of judging things, I was sure I would find them cringey and embarrassing. But I was truly wrong and very quickly changed my mind. They were fab and I couldn’t help but smile pretty much constantly, just hoping no cameras were on me grinning like an idiot.
Then the play started. Again, I thought it was awkward looking and embarrassing. Again, I very quickly changed my mind. It was without doubt the funniest production I have ever seen. The reviews were right. It took me a while to come to terms with the fact that I was finding a play so funny that I was actually laughing out loud. At the interval I described it as “flawless”. I have never described a play, or film for that matter, as flawless. It really was though – the story, cast, jokes, acting – all perfect. Although this doesn’t seem possible, I think it was the jovial nature of the play that meant any minor blips would not have been remotely perceivable – they would just have been swallowed by the “joyous pandemonium”. I suppose that is it actually – pandemonium allows for a bit of variation in timing and lines. Afterwards someone said that the cast had been told to stop ad lib-ing so much, which made me wish I had seen it like that.
The particularly great thing about the play also was that it wasn’t just funny, it was clever. It wasn’t brainless panto comedy but some politically relevant, some slapstick, some playing on social stereotypes, English humour – both visual and wordy. Also, as a Philosophy graduand (serious degree-drop), I found the layers of the performance interesting – the prima facie performance, the interaction with the audience, the references to the fact that it was just a performance. The actors pulled this off perfectly. They were all brilliant, but I think my favourite would have to be Stanley Stubbers (played by Oliver Chris) – he was perfect for the part, and got the stereotypical “posh boy”-figure spot on. He was amusingly like a fair few people I met at university so I feel I am commenting from a position of authority. Also, I do feel “Christine” and the waiter (played by Tom Edden) deserve a mention – their roles were outstanding. Christine was probably the best actor in the show as I truly bought her as a poor victim of audience participation. I spent the whole interval feeling quite tense and sorry for her. And the waiter, who I cannot remember the name of, was hysterically funny. I only realised quite how impressive this doddery old waiter (no description could do it justice) was when I saw him at the cast and crew drink thing after. I only recognised him because someone excitedly pointed him out. Ironically he was helping himself to food from the buffet, so I saw him at a moment of perfect comparability. Irony is the perfect word to sum the play up actually. The whole play is ironic – even ironic about itself.
I can’t recommend it any more highly.