Was It Worth The Wait? – One Man Two Guvnors – Theatre Royal Haymarket


I didn’t get a chance to see this when it opened. Over the last year if I had a pound for everyone who said “have you seen One Man Two Guvnors?” I could certainly have paid for  a trip to see it on Broadway.

So the other night I went along with some pals to finally see it. For 2 of my friends this was their second visit and for one it was his third time. With such a theatrical thumbs up I thought I was in for a treat. Alas this show failed to live up to its hype for me, let me explain why:

Firstly I’ve seldom seen a cast “going through the motions” as much as most of this cast did. It lacked any sense of spontaneity and the cast seemed to lack panache and zeal.
Some lines were lost as they failed to project fully, it felt a bit tired. They have a two-week break soon, it appears they need it. Except this is a West End show, they should be firing on all cylinders EVERY night. Nicholas Hynter needs to pop down and cast his directorial eye on it as they’ve grown complacent I think.

Secondly I think Act 2 really lets it down. The best jokes are in Act 1, in the second act we descend into plastic penis territory to get cheap laughs. As a wise performer once told me “not all laughs are good laughs”.

Thirdly the repetition of gags, pratfalls and jokes enters the realm of the law of diminishing returns far too often. It may have been funny when Martin Barrass falls downstairs the first time however on the third one it failed to get much more than a titter.

I felt Owain Arthur was too egotistical and self-indulgent in his role. My friend felt he was too aggressive compared to James Corden and didn’t engage as well with the audience.

The use of stooges was really the final nail in the coffin for me though. I think this is the root cause of why it felt complacent and tired as a show. I felt cheated when I realised they were stooges. I also don’t think there’s a need for them either actually, as the performers should be able to cope with handling “real people” as is occasionally shown by some of the banter they have with the “real” audience.

I think this would be better as a one-act play as I really don’t think it holds the attention for the 2hrs and as I’ve said Act 2 just doesn’t deliver, as the plot has nowhere to go really.

I DID like ; Ben Mansfield as Stanley and Phil Cornwell as Charlie “the Duck” Clench. They certainly gave their all and got the biggest laughs from me.

I did laugh out loud on occasions, don’t get me wrong, I did try to engage with it, I didn’t sit being all curmudgeonly. It’s just the laugh out loud moments were not as regular as I was expecting and I certainly wasn’t rolling in the aisle.

It’s not awful, I just fell for the hype so only have myself to blame, I should have known better. My friend who was seeing it for 3rd time commented how poor he felt this cast was in comparison to original one. The National Theatre have been striving to make a point the show was bigger than its original cast. It looks like that this is not the case.

Was it worth the wait? I’m glad I got to see it, and it was an enjoyable night out with friends at the theatre, but I can’t agree with the plaudits and praise some have heaped on this show however I’m aware they saw a different cast and so it seems a different show to me.

STARS : * * *

9 thoughts on “Was It Worth The Wait? – One Man Two Guvnors – Theatre Royal Haymarket

  1. I’d agree with that – I’m wishing you’d seen the original cast. I’m beginning to think that seeing shows more than once is a futile exercise, especially when there’s a new cast in town. More often than not, they fail to live up to or surpass your original memory. I enjoyed it, but what I saw was Owain Arthur playing James Corden playing Francis Henshall – Arthur needs to step out of Corden’s shadow and make the character his own, which he failed to do. Admittedly I was only aware of one plant in the audience – now knowing what the other two are, they felt entirely unnecessary.

  2. Tony – interesting to hear your thoughts, It’ll be interesting to see what the next comedy the National do is like in light of the success this has had.

    Gail – I’m wishing I too had seen the original cast! I agree that seeing a show a second or more times can be dissapointing sometimes.

  3. I was lucky enough to see the original cast on the West End and on Broadway and I must say that they were fabulous. James Corden’s ability to make scripted reactions seem ad libbed is incredible.

    I have raved about the show back home in Australia but now the thing that has me worried after reading this post is that the Australian tour will feature the English cast – headed by Owain Arthur! Hope all my theatre friends don’t end up thinking I’ve exaggerated in my praise for the show.

    If only the National Theatre would release some of their cinema live offerings on dvd. I would love to have the recording of the original cast of One Man Two Guvnors, not to mention London Assurance, She Stoops to Conquer and the list goes on…

  4. Simon, if you get to see it when it comes to Australia please let me know what you think in comparsion to the original. As I said I went with 3 people who had all seen the original and they were all disappointed with this cast. (one went so far as to say they were “awful”)

    It could be they were just having an off night, I still don’t excuse that for a West End show though.

    I TOTALLY agree about them releasing the shows they’ve filmed, in the digital age it must be easy for them to release them electronically. I’ve no idea why they don’t but I’m sure it’d be in their interest finacially to release them for viewing. I’ve got a few links at the NT so I may well see what they say.

  5. The only show I’ve seen twice and enjoyed both performances as much as each other has been The 39 Steps.

    James Corden (who I don’t even particularly like), Jemima Rooper, Oliver Chris and Daniel Rigby were always going to be a tough act to follow.

  6. Ahh but The 39 Steps is something very special. I think producers know they can’t have any weak links in it otherwise it’ll just plummet. I’d happily see The 39 Steps again.

  7. Pingback: The Duck House (or should that be Dire House?) – Vaudeville Theatre – Review | Theatre Thoughts Blog

  8. Pingback: The Mentalists – Wyndham’s Theatre – Review | Theatre Thoughts Blog

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