One Man, Two Guvnors (review)

JAMES Corden launched his national tour of One Man, Two Guvnors, to rousing applause and a standing ovation at Aylesbury’s Waterside Theatre on Tuesday night and it couldn’t have been more deserved.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 28th September 2011, 8:27 pm

The actor has come a long way since he donned a grammar school uniform to appear in Alan Bennett’s The History Boys at The National. He’s gone from bolshy teenager in the back row of class to star turn, and writer, of award-winning shows on TV.

Now he’s storming through Richard Bean’s gastronomic orgy of a comedy that is played at full throttle to convulsive audiences.

No disrespect to Corden but the roly-roly actor owes a lot of his comic success to his size - his Billy Bunter appearance gives him a head start – but I’m betting that by the time One Man returns to the West End its leading man will have lost a shed-load of weight despite his constant grazing on stage.

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This is physical comedy and slapstick at its best and his manic rushing around the set brought squeals of delight from the packed auditorium.

Corden plays food-obsessed minder Francis Henshall. He’s not the sharpest knife in the block but there’s plenty of competition for the title among the show’s other characters. In fact, at one point, he’s accused of being “the role model for village idiots everywhere”.

This is 1963 Brighton and, by a slip of the tongue, the hapless and constantly hungry Henshall, manages to get himself employed by two people simultaneously.

It’s a recipe for disaster in a farce that starts off slowly but soon comes to the boil.

There’s a panto element to the storyline with members of the audience being drafted in to help with gags but generally we’re served up a rich dish of laugh-out-loud jollies from start to finish.

One thing the star will have to tackle on tour is the point in his dialogue where he pleads “has anyone got a sandwich?” It has become common knowledge, and been consumed by internet-obsessed, chat-room, geeky student, theatre-going types, that at one London show his call was answered by a member of the front row and Corden enjoyed a brief culinary respite before continuing.

On opening night a member of the Waterside front row offered up a hummus sandwich and I can see this developing into a bit of a game. “You will learn,” Henshall told the punter, “ in the not too distant future that you have somewhat messed with the play!”

There was excellent support from the ever-watchable Oliver Chris as a public school clod and Jemima Rooper as a pair of “identical” twins, plus a superb comic turn by Tom Edden as hapless geriatric waiter, Alfie.

Waterside is sold out for the week, and no wonder, but go if you can get returns, it is a delicious feast.

Call the box office 0844 871 7607 or go online www.atgtickets.com/aylesbury

ANNE COX