Eastbourne Theatres creative team have taken an old commedia dell’arte piece by Carlo Goldoni and come up trumps with their superbly staged summer production, One Man, Two Guvnors. Although the show has a 7.45pm start, we are treated to 15 minutes of pre-show skiffle music before the play begins and then, from the outset, the sound of laughter fills the theatre.
As the space that the stage of the Devonshire Park Theatre offers is fairly confined, the orchestra pit now forms part of the robust and well designed sets that faithfully represent 1960’s Brighton with pastel coloured townhouses, a quaint pub and even the famous Palace Pier.
The skiffle band, formed using various members from the company of 11 multi-talented actor/musicians, perform at intervals as, behind the gold curtain, sets are changed with lightning speed and we are transported from venue to venue. Lighting effects are as cleverly orchestrated as the musical score and, together with some perfectly timed sound effects, enhance the production well.
Aiden O’Neill is Francis Henshall, the “man” of the title whose efforts to service both “guvnors”, played by Ruth Westley as Rachel / Roscoe Crabbe and Dylan Turner as Stanley Stubbers, lead to some of the funniest moments of slapstick theatrical genius ever to have been played out on the British stage. His dealings with both cast and audience are hilarious, with everyone in the building a possible target when there is a laugh to be had.
The “lunch” scene that finishes act one is breathtakingly daring with Peter Lovstrom, as doddering old waiter Alfie, plummeting into the orchestra pit with frightening regularity and one unsuspecting audience member wishing that she had packed a change of clothes for the evening!
Chris Jordan has always been famous for his meticulous attention to detail when directing a production and One Man, Two Guvnors is now a wonderful addition to his portfolio and the latest feather in his, already heavily plumed, cap.
***** Five Stars