Review: One Man, Two Guvnors

A scene from One Man Two Guvnors
A scene from One Man Two Guvnors
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Leeds Grand Theatre

Without wishing to start with an obvious joke about James Corden’s corpulence, he cast a pretty large shadow over the opening night of the Leeds leg of One Man, Two Guvnors’ national tour.

By the end of the night the shadow had evaporated in the light of a show so crammed full of comedy and a performance from Rufus Hound, stepping into Corden’s ample suit, that was so full of energy and commitment, that his technical failings were easy to overlook.

One Man, by Hull writer Richard Bean, was one of the National Theatre’s major hits of last year. Built on a commedia dell’arte classic by Carlo Goldoni, it pivots around the central performance of Hound as Francis Henshall, the man who has the job of trying to satisfy the two eponymous bosses. The beauty of this play is that it strikes the funny bone constantly with physical humour and sometimes base gags, while always engaging the cerebrum.

Surprised at that? Well, some of the physical comedy rivals Inspector Clouseau at his most mishap-ridden, but the structure allows you to see the hand of the author above the construct. Richard Bean is no fool, his comedies for Hull Truck, the Royal Court and the National over the years have proved that much.

When some of the gags appear a little broad brush stroke, he is actually indulging in both enthusiasm for the form while maintaining a level of irony. It really is an exceptional piece of work.