9-14 June 2014
Reviewed by Siobhan Bridgwater
I was expecting great things from an evening at the Bristol Hippodrome billed as ‘The funniest show on the planet’ by the Daily Mail. I knew little about the show I was about to see apart from it was a National Theatre award-winning comedy production and it had “Barry from Eastenders” in it.
Parking is limited in the surrounding streets around the Hippodrome so I would advise that you allow extra time as you won’t want to miss the start.
On arrival, we were warmly greeted by two chatty members of theatre staff and we picked up our tickets and program. As we were the first members of the audience to be led in to the auditorium, we had the chance to admire the empty theatre in all its glory – beautifully lit to show off its rich interior.
With the exception of the disabled toilets, which were pretty pungent, the rest of the theatre appeared well scrubbed up for the occasion and clean to a fault. The atmosphere was one of great anticipation and a sense of excitement filled the stalls as the rest of audience piled in.
The show opened as the audience was still finding their places with a fabulous, four piece skiffle band, complete with a washboard player and a double bass. They treated us to a medley of lively songs by Grant Olding, reminiscent of early Beetles and Buddy Holly tracks. Once the theatre was packed, the chatter naturally subsided as music took on a slower pace, only to push up tempo again once the band had grabbed everyone’s attention. Then the curtain lifted on an evening which can only be described as a celebration of the unique quirkiness of traditional British satirical comedy. From start to finish the show was interspersed with numerous musical interludes from the house band and some unexpected fun, musical turns from some of the show’s leading actors.
The play is set in Brighton in the sixties. The fabulously designed stage sets masterfully aided a story to unfold in which its central character, Francis Henshall, a hapless minder to Roscoe Crabbe, gets inadvertently in above his head as he takes on a second boss to make ends meet. To confuse matters, Roscoe Crabbe, a local homosexual gangster, is actually Rachel Crabbe, his twin sister disguised as her recently deceased brother and the new guvnor turns out to be Stanley, Rachel’s posh twit of a lover, who has killed the brother, and is now hoping to escape the Rozzers and head to Australia. Still with me?? Neither Rachel nor Stanley are aware that they have both ended up staying in the same pub as they try to make contact with each other whilst Francis desperately tries to keep them apart to conceal his mixed employment. Confused? Believe me, it gets a lot more complicated.
The story is impossibly difficult to explain comprehensively. However, this incredible, strong cast of actors, led by Gavin Spokes, Emma Barton and Shaun Williamson, drive this remarkable play ever forward, captivating the audience throughout with the farcical and catastrophic actions of its likeable characters and twisted plot lines. Along its rambling way towards an eventual happy ending are all the essential ingredients for a Great British romp including a catalogue of unfortunate mix ups, a doddery old waiter unsuccessfully trying to avoid the perfectly timed swing doors action, some malfunctioning pacemaker humour, some very cleverly staged and hilarious “audience participation”, lots of willy jokes and slapstick fighting, prison gags, push up bras and dropped trousers and a dumb blonde who mistakenly fears everyone is in love with her idiotic overacting fiancé.
The audience most certainly seemed to know what they had come for tonight and they were not disappointed. The cast and musicians worked incredibly hard to present a slick, fun-filled night of entertainment that was hugely enjoyed by a crowd that were on their feet at the end of night to show their appreciation.
If this is your bag, you can’t go far wrong.
Tickets cost from £11.90 to £37.90 (plus £4 transaction fee).
One Man, Two Guvnors is at the Bristol Hippodrome until 14 June 2014. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0844 871 3012.
Bristol Hippodrome, St Augustine’s Parade, Bristol, BS1 4UZ | 0844 871 3012