28/12/14 EDIT: A handy way of knowing when this show is in season, and nearly 2 years after this post was written, it’s probably safe to say it is no longer in vogue. So, feel free to tell me about the production you saw – good/bad? It’ll be a while before Hound reprises the role again and this post becomes relevant again, alas.
Thursday past I was in London, and seeing One Man, Two Guvnors at Theatre Royal Haymarket was a last minute decision.
We had tickets for the wrong night, there was music, Rufus Hound ate the flames of 17 matches, we had a sing along to Marley’s One Love (that was…interesting) and, to top it off, we lost a cast member half an hour before the show ended due to spraining her ankle onstage (hence the matches and the sing along).
It was a rowdy show, a rough-and-tumble-kid-in-tweed performance from Rufus Hound (playing Henshall, the Man). However, for all the enjoyment that can come from a farce, if Amy Cudden (Rachel, one of the Guvnors) hadn’t injured herself and the full ticket price had been paid (£55), I might have felt a little let down. I like it when things go wrong. To me, it is a true sign of how well a cast gels in a time of crisis. And this particular night was a brilliant example.
Thank goodness the show’s plant was also Cudden’s understudy!
Actually, talking of the plant, it was a fantastic example of why they’re still used. You would think by now people would be able to spot a plant a mile off (I fell for it for the first few minutes). Thankfully, the reaction of the people behind us were living proof of why they’re still used.
The supposed audience member, Christine Patterson, was pulled from the front row to help Hound onstage. After much “helping” and hiding of Christine, her final hiding spot places her under a table due to be lit on fire. Upon running out, she was doused with water and engulfed in foam from the fire extinguisher before an SM escorted her offstage. The couple behind us couldn’t stand it any longer:
“That’s it. They’ve gone too far now. She clearly didn’t want to be onstage, you can’t do that to people. Time to leave!“
And that’s why performances used plants, kids. To see how far people can be pushed. And because it’s funny.
Everyone played their parts very well – Alfie (Tom Lorcan) and actor Alan (Harry Kershaw) were highlights – but in all honesty it felt a lot more like a Fringe Festival show, and not something from the National Theatre. It had a ragged round the edges feel, which could have passed for the average £10-20 Fringe ticket price. But for a proscenium arch venue, and if we hadn’t been sitting in the Gods (£15-25), I don’t know…maybe I’m just being picky.
The one element which I will be critical of was the addition of the band The Craze!, an evident director’s idea. I presume their purpose was to entertain, disguise scene changes, invigorate the 60s Richard Bean had set his 1963 translation of the Goldoni’s Servant of Two Masters (1743), and lyrically mirror the action of the play. Loosely.
I’ve been in the room where directors have gone “Wouldn’t it be great if we did this? It’ll reflect this theme/character/subtext” for plays and moments that don’t need it. The Craze! were a pleasant sound and a happy looking crew, but it felt like a very tenuous link and just short of padding out the piece.
Belly laughs, some beautifully crafted caricatures and Hound was a surprising delight. Generally when comedians turn to acting, I have very low expectations – similar to when actors turn to music; I can’t put my finger on it, but something about it just makes me cringe. Sir Christopher Lee, however, I could listen to forever doing his operatic rock thing. But Hound, you were a surprise, so be proud. A good start to my three day visit.
Day two. Book of Mormon