Review: Perfect timing makes for a night of laughs with One Man Two Guvnors in Stratford

David T Mears and Ruth Linnett in One Man Two Guvnors
David T Mears and Ruth Linnett in One Man Two Guvnors

Nick Le Mesurier reviews One Man Two Guvnors at the Bear Pit Theatre, Stratford

What’s the secret of comedy? It’s…timing. Richard Bean’s knockabout comedy One Man Two Guvnors relies on split second timing in every scene. Not just gags, there are all the physical aspects of performance: body language, facial expressions. Then there’s the complex business of getting people on and off stage seamlessly without bumping into each other. There’s the music too. Add to this some audience participation and a certain amount of water, and you get a show that has so much in it, it could all go horribly wrong. It doesn’t, of course, because this company, directed here by Nicky Cox, really know their comedy.

Richard Bean recently had a hit with The Hypocrite at the RSC. Here the hero is Francis Henshall (David Mears), a failed musician turned minder who for want of a meal finds himself taking on two jobs for two dodgy geezers. The trick he must pull off is to keep them apart.

The convoluted plot is great fun, but it’s the characters you’ll remember. There’s cheeky Rachel Crabbe (Natalie Danks-Smith), who is posing as her own dead brother but who wants to marry his murderer, posh crook Stanley Stubbers (Roger Ganner); there’s an almost thwarted love affair between mega-melodramatic actor Alan Dangle (Jack Sergent) and profoundly thick but pretty Pauline Clench (Flo Hatton); then there’s super sexy Dolly (Ruth Linnett) who falls for Francis’s invented alter ego, Paddy; and a superb slapstick performance from Graham Tyler as the waiter, Alfie. And that’s just part of the story.

David Mears is one of our finest comic actors. But the magic wouldn’t work without a perfect script and a company that are on top form. The result is a night of laughter that’ll have you in stitches.

* The play runs until Saturday May 20. Call 01789 403416 to book.