Theatre review - One Man, Two Guvnors, Blackburn Empire Theatre

One Man, Two Guvnors

One Man, Two Guvnors - Credit: Archant

Blackburn Drama Club tackle the West End play on British gangsters.

One Man, Two Guvnors is an English adaptation of an Italian play by the name of "The Servant of Two Masters" written by Carlo Goldini in 1743 and was brought to fame on the West End in 2011 with James Corden playing the lead role.

Set in Brighton in the early 60's the play tells the somewhat complicated story of Francis Henshall - a minder to East End gangster, Roscoe Crabbe. Only Roscoe Crabbe is dead and his twin sister, Rachel, is pretending to be him and has come to Brighton to claim money from Roscoe's former fiancée's father, Charlie Clench. Roscoe was killed by Rachel's boyfriend, Stanley Stubbers who is not only also in Brighton, but becomes the second of Francis's "guvnors". What follows is a turbulent ride as Francis attempts to work for both without letting the other know he is doing so.

Richard Bean's play is a hugely popular whirlwind of both visual and verbal comedy with a sidestep away from traditional plays whereby there is some audience participation and the encouragement for the cast to ad-lib, which can be a challenge for a professional company let alone an amateur one.

Director Clive Stack definitely had his work cut out with this one. The play is very quick, it is punchy, full of energy and it is very busy in the fact that there are lots of props, movements and visual comedy. A challenge for anybody really to pull off, but he has done just that and more. To keep the feel of the time and to enhance the flow of the scene changes the audience were treated to the talents of a group of young dancers kitted out in 1960's outfits complete with neon, glow-in-the-dark colours. This wonderful young group of girls consisted of Catherine Curran, Luella Hodson, Poppy Leedham, Rebecca Marshall, Jessica Morris, Emily Rolfe, Millie Sambrook, Lily Tate and Millie Wrennall. This show is at a completely different level to other shows I have been privileged to see and calls for a strong cast who can pick it up and run with it. The cast were encouraged to interact with the audience, they were also encouraged to go off script and it worked perfectly in this extremely funny piece.

Support was strong in many guises from Ben Ashworth, Simon Hall, Barbara Chadwick and Graham, Howarth who all seem to enjoy their time on stage with the additional freedom of the script. Martin Cottam was Charlie "The Duck" Clench in a very strong, confident role with Gemma Nightingale in wonderful form as the dippy, yet loveable Pauline Clench who is looking to marry the wannabe actor Alan Dangle played superbly by one of the stand out performers of the evening, Robert Walsh. He hammed up the part suitably and it worked so effectively creating a lot of the show's laugh out loud momentss.

Claire St. Pierre excelled as Charlie's bookkeeper, Dolly - the object of Francis's affectionate. Jackie Green was brilliant in her "dual role" as the Roscoe twins with a beautifully executed comedic piece. Dominic Dwyer was wonderfully dry as the second "guvnor", Stanley Stubbers again producing some of the show's funnier lines with a truly perfect slapstick performance by Steven Catterall as Alfie.

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The other stand out performance was that of Francis Henshall played to absolute perfection by Stephen Claxon who did not put a foot wrong and gave the performance of his career. He came on like a whirlwind and showed no signs of slowing down throughout the play. He showed great talent in his portrayal with great delivery and perfectly executed comic timing. The range of his talents were also evident in his handling of the audience during the participation scenes and a couple of situations that went off-script and slightly awry were handled very professionally.

One Man, Two Guvnors is a high octane, fast paced comedy. I cannot remember the last time I laughed so loud for so long during a play. I had to keep looking at the clock - not because I couldn't wait for the show to end, but because I didn't want it to stop.

Congratulations to everyone at Blackburn Drama Club who were involved in this production. You should be proud to have put on a brilliant show that was played to perfection. I would recommend watching an early performance, because I guarantee you will want to book again for the weekend.

The show continues on Thursday 26th September to Saturday 28th September at 7:30pm. For more information and tickets visit the Empire website at -