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Lily Harper reviews the 2021 DRAMSOC play.
My first foray back into the world of live theatre post-2021 lockdown took the form of DRAMSOC’s One Man, Two Guvnors (2011) by Richard Bean. Its devastatingly quick-witted joke-a-minute-dialogue betrays a brilliant writer, and an equally brilliant creative team. I was quite convinced this was a play in and of the time of its 1960s British setting, so I was truly surprised that it had actually been written only ten years ago. Bean does an excellent job of evoking attitudes long considered out of touch and knowingly poking fun at them.
In a true homage to the play’s commedia dell’arte origins, it also proves to be a masterclass in physical comedy – a daunting task for anyone bold enough to take on the titular servant of the title.
Our main character, Francis, took on this physical challenge with determination- and it paid off. Alice Litchfield’s formidable task of carrying much of the action of the play truly showed off her incredible aptitude for performing. For me, this peaked in the middle of Act 1, where a one-man physical fight saw Alice in a scene reminiscent of a Smeagol/Gollum conflict.
Charlotte Macdonald’s performance as Roscoe/Rachel was astoundingly impressive as she used nuances to make the characters distinct – the voices, the mannerisms, the comportment – they were markers of a subtle and intelligent approach to her performance.
Sam Reckling’s performance as Stanley (not to mention doing this as well as the huge job of directing the thing!) was a pitch-perfect rendition of your classic English boarding school toff. He faultlessly struck the balance of imperiousness and slimy charisma that somehow made him endearing enough to get the girl.
I also really enjoyed when Sam and Alice had scenes together. They clearly have great chemistry as performance partners, and it was a pleasure to see them play off each other.
If I were to properly sing the praises of the rest of the cast, this article would never end. This cast definitely relied on a quality ensemble and they all truly delivered. But I do feel it would be remiss not to mention the hilarious appearances of Oscar Cheal’s poor beleaguered Alfie, who demonstrated the fantastic skill of falling convincingly (which is much harder than it looks), and Ben Emmett’s wannabe thespian who was a little too reminiscent of many an actor who takes themselves much too seriously.
A real shout out must also go to the audience members unfortunate enough to be picked out for some “special appearances”. The cast did a great job of light-heartedly bullying a few poor sods, and an exchange about sandwiches with one audience member led to a hilarious batch of insults for anyone pretentious enough to enjoy smoked salmon (“smoked salmon wanker” was one of my favourites). One poor audience member was stuck on stage with not much to do except to hold a soup pot for a solid 15 minutes, only to have a nice cold bucket of water tossed over them to cap off the experience!
The cast and crew must be praised for battling through a very tricky situation, working around restrictions. The volatility of the situation must have made organising full-cast rehearsals a nightmare; that they got something together at all is impressive. The fact that the finished product was a hilarious, well-thought out piece of theatre really is a testament to a fantastic and passionate cast and crew who clearly love the theatre. Bursting into song at the end, though it was somewhat surprising, felt like a very fitting way to end an incredibly joyful evening.
Image: Zoe Kemp