I recognise I’ve missed the boat with this play. All of the people who recommended I see this the Christmas before last saw James Corden at the National and told me to see it before he left. For some reason or other (namely essays and whatnot) I didn’t manage to book one before then and was then left with the option of seeing the play without, after being expressly told it was better with Corden. And so naturally, I carried on writing those essays.
However, to dismiss the play altogether would make me as bad as any other jumping on the big name bandwagon. It made me acutely aware that Westend shows often exploit one or two big names in order to bring in an audience. Sorry to disappoint budding divas (or divos) in their prime, or even the well-oiled cogs of any marketing department, but one star amongst the cast cannot be the only reason that a play can become great.
One man, two Guvnors has a lot going for it. For one, there isn’t a lot in the way of competition for a British comedy nowadays. Apart from standup, the rest of the Westend has taken a more spectacular route for entertainment. Dear old Shakespeare doesn’t count in this instance; sometimes we seem to forget we have more in common with our current generation than his. Richard Bean’s adaptation was actually based on an Italian formula from the 1700s, but translated into something more familiar i.e. the 60s and Brighton.
There are definitely still elements of a Renaissance comedy, cross-dressing twins, fatal misunderstandings and cheeky asides.. indeed by the end of the evening, I might have said something along the lines of: “well that was a rather flamboyant version of Much Ado about Nothing!” To which my friend replied, “you’re such an English student”. (And I meant to say Twelfth Night)
Ok so I’ll take my flimsy intellectual cap off for a moment and consider it just as a comedy… I liked Matilda more. That’s my gut feeling. Perhaps it was the particular evening we went to see it, sometimes comic timing can be off. The musical troop were just cheese and the gags were a little predictable. Maybe I wasn’t in the mood? Audience participation amounted to set up and I’m sure there were even moments the cast felt the atmosphere wasn’t quite right.
I did laugh though. And I cannot fault the actors’ themselves. The piece was well-balanced, and by well-balanced I mean the dumb blonde was nicely set off by an independently thinking brunette and a cross-dressing, scheming lover. The piece did have some sort of charm to it. And there were some nice touches in the staging and choreography.
The last time I went to the Royal Haymarket I was stunned into silence, half a metre away from Ralph Fiennes face. In contrast to those day seats, this time my NT Entry Pass tickets were in the first row of the Upper Circle. Aside from seating differences, it’s safe to say that without Ralph Fiennes, Trevor Nunn’s take on the Tempest would have fallen through. Without James Corden, I might be less starry-eyed, but the sheer ensemble in One Man Two Guvnors, still holds strong. And that’s why it’s still playing. Though for much longer I do not know, there were quite a few empty seats in the auditorium that night.
I booked my EP tickets online after logging in on the NT page. My ticket was £6 and my friend’s was £8.50. Since my friend also has an EP, we could have bought our tickets separately online or on the phone for £6 each. Otherwise, the cheapest tickets are £12 and day seats are £26.
Places to eat
Royal Haymarket is just a stone’s throw away from Picadilly Circus and Chinatown.
We went to Busaba Eathai and had some yummy light starters round the corner.