ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS - New Theatre (NSW)
Adapted by Richard Bean. Directed by Angus Evans.
Reviewed by Juliana Payne
New Theatre, Newtown
22 March - 15 April 2023
- New Theatre produces a hilarious adaptation of an 18th Century classic -
From the moment the pre-show live band on stage at New Theatre struck up their skiffle versions of electronic pop songs, the audience were ready, willing, and able to utterly enjoy this production. And why not? We had women in disguise, star-crossed lovers, a cheeky feminist bookkeeper, an upper-class twit, and lots and lots of gags and pratfalls at which to laugh uncontrollably. Nice work New Theatre - like it, like it.
Playwright Richard Bean has adapted and wrapped the play in a whole new delightfully silly garb stitched together with bit of Carry On, Benny Hill, Monty Python and Fawlty Towers. Anyone can easily Google the original play A Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni and chortle at his chubby picture in eighteenth-century frock coat and awful wig. However there are many reasons why audiences are still turning up to watch and enjoy three hundred years later, and you can see them all in action at New Theatre.
Bell Shakespeare touched A Servant of Two Masters with their usual magic wand in a wonderful production in 2003. London’s National Theatre streamed One Man Two Guvnors to cinemas globally in 2012 with a very young, very funny James Corden in the lead role (before he super starred up) and today’s New Theatre’s rendition is a worthy bearer of the torch.
Images by Clare Hawley
Satire and slapstick are deeply ingrained in the theatre, from the ancient Greek satyr plays that brought comic relief between the tragedies, to commedia dell’arte in the 1600s and right on down to Dr Strangelove and Blackadder. The audience lapped it up in One Man Two Guvnors, demonstrating that a great love of satire and slapstick lives on. It’s cathartic, it’s a relief, and it’s just plain good fun.
Tristan Black in the lead role must be one of the hardest working actors on any stage in this country – his energy was palpable, and he had a great relationship with the audience. Anna Dooley had the excellent timing and cheeky archness her character needed with great stage presence.
Director Angus Evans made good use of the whole theatre space and Jess Zoltnick’s set to keep the audience on their toes; some clever audience participation set ups had audiences in arm’s reach looking nervous and the rest of us looking smugly amused. Some of the dialogue gets a bit lost in all the chaose however, and some cast members needed to remember to project their lines to the audience rather than upstage!
Drama teachers take note – this is an ideal production to get your students fully engaged and wanting more of the good stuff. You can talk theatre history, modern values, and the role of satire in contemporary society. At least a week’s worth of lesson plans right there, and heaps of good fun as well!
CREATIVE TEAM Director Angus Evans Set Designer Jess Zlotnick Lighting Designer Mehran Mortezaei Costume Designer Holly-Jane Cohle Musical Director/Sound Designer Georgia Condon Assistant Director/Choreographer Emily Dreyer Fight Choreography Diego Retamales Intimacy Director Shondelle Pratt Props Maker Jess Way Costume Assistant Eleanor Chessell Stage Management Trainer Rosane McNamara Stage Manager James Hewish ASMs Haakon Barry, Mik Pastore LX/SX Operator Trainer Ricci Costa LX/SX Operators Axl, Ethan Chan
CAST Naser Ali, Eliva, Tristan Black Amy Victoria Brooks, Joe Clements Patrick Cullen, Anna Dooley Angus Evans, Patricio Ibarra Eleanor Ryan, Angharad Wise BAND Georgia Condon, Georgia Drewe Matt Forbes