Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Francis, Stanley and Roscoe

Richard Taylor as Francis, Callum Morris as Stanley and Laurie Pollitt as Roscoe. Picture: Alex Powell photography

One Man, Two Guvnors

The Nonentities


Comedia Del’Arte seems to have come a long way from its Italian roots; in fact all the way to Brighton it seems in this reworking of Carlo Goldani’s sixteenth century classic, The Servant of Two Masters.

Writer Richard Bean adapted the work in 2011 and won himself an Evening Standard award for best play in the process. In this incarnation the `one man’ is Francis Henshall an accidental bodyguard, doing his best to make a living and find a meal; amongst the shady goings on of 1960s gangster culture in the unlikely town of Brighton.

Henshall works for one Rachel Crabbe, herself masquerading as her slain brother Roscoe but then he goes on to profit from offering his services to society buffoon Stanley Stubbers.

Desperate to appear that his allegiance is to just one of them, he enters into a series of masquerades, deceit and impersonations to keep both of his Guvnors happy. Add to this the dubious Charlie Clench and his educationally challenged daughter Pauline, plus their cohorts and the stage is set for a chaotic and sometimes surreal chain of events that tumble towards an eventual happy outcome.

As in the original the lion’s share of the acting work comes down to the central character The Harlequin, in this case Francis Henshall played to sweaty exhaustion by the talented Richard Taylor. Besides appearing in practically every scene the role calls for a great deal of physicality and verbal dexterity and Mr Taylor was exceptional on all fronts as usual.  

This level of comedy requires great precision that at times was not always present, but the experience of Sue Downing playing Dolly, Clench’s secretary in a scene with Francis, where they plan a trip to Majorca, was one of the very funny moments throughout the evening. Downing seemed to be channelling Barbara Windsor as she shimmied and giggled at the thought of their potential romantic encounter.

Chris Clarke was gangster Charlie Clench and to bring off the role, he nicely embodied just about every cockney stereotype you can imagine. His rather dim daughter was played by Jessica K. Schneider and with her suitor in the form of the dramatic love struck Alan Dingle played by Joe Harper; they made a superb mismatched but besotted couple struggling to find a way to be together.

The two guvnors were convincingly created by Callum Morris as the toff Stanley Stubbers and Laurie Pollitt as the well disguised Rachel Crabbe. Andy Bingham as the aging servant Alfie was destined to get a lot of the laughs. Crouched over as the Octogenarian and powered only by his pacemaker, he was subjected to a lot of physical torture during the evening and yet lived to take his bow.  

There was good support too in the form of Robert John Graham as the Latin quoting lawyer Harry Dangle whose catch phrase was No Win, Same fee and Ryan Green as Lloyd together with Dan Taylor as the waiter Gareth. Pat Gales and Sarah Brookes had nothing to say in their policewoman roles but still got a few laughs in their silent appearances.  

Director Neal Magrath certainly had his work cut out to keep this manic often slapstick comedy heading to a successful conclusion. However with several large scene changes covered by some cockney singalongs in front of the curtain, the company worked tirelessly throughout the evening and kept the barrel full of laughs. To 10-06-17.

Jeff Grant


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