Richard Bean’s comedy came to Market Harborough in the hands of Market Harborough Drama Society.
As I sat in the intimate 118 seat auditorium of the Market Harborough Theatre there was a definite feeling of excited anticipation in the air. It was the final performance of Market Harborough Drama Society’s sell out run of Richard Bean’s ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’, an adaptation from a 1743 Italian Commedia Dell’arte play; ‘Il Servitore di due Padroni’ (Servant of Two Masters), by Carlo Goldoni.
If you are familiar with the Commedia dell’arte style you will know it is full of ‘stock characters’ within society with exaggerated attributes designed to entertain everybody who watches them, & we the audience were thoroughly entertained, with false identity, extreme gullibility, barely credible lies and some good old fashioned slapstick physical theatre.
Nigel Pierce took on the role of Francis Hensall with ease. He embodied the ‘clown’(characteristics of Commedia dell’arte’s ‘Harlequin’), with slapstick physicality and emphasising the ‘simpleton’ in Francis, being driven by his stomach and then his heart. He commanded the stage as a seasoned performer does & his confident interaction with the audience in his ‘asides’ as he broke the fourth wall made the audience feel part of the action. His coolness during his ad-libs with the audience was admirable as they appeared to be so ‘off-the cuff’ but clearly well rehearsed. A highlight of his performance was the cleverly & hilariously directed fight scene where he fought with himself. This slapstick scene engaged much laughter from the audience.
The twelve strong cast had this show down to a fine art & were clearly basking in the comedy & the enjoyment of the piece. Sarah Parker played the role of Pauline, with a childlike innocence that guaranteed a giggle at her rather than with her. Alistair Beeson’s interpretation of Alan Dangle, the ‘Actor’ was hilarious and he shone in Act 2 Scene 1 as his gag about the old high street store ‘Woolies’ (Woolworths) repeated and built. Lisa McLean should be commended for her facial gymnastics, her face and eyes were so expressive in the roll of ‘Dolly’ and she was a joy to watch.
A special mention to Mark Bodicoat’s supporting character of ‘Alfie’, he captured the hearts of the audience instantly & his comedic timing & physicality were genius.
The set was simple and effective, with scenic paintings by Ron Kirk projected on the back psyclorama to indicate the different locations of each scene; a sitting room, outside of a pub, a bar area, and more . The side flats containing 4 doors leading off to the wings (2 on each side of the stage) were utilised well throughout the play & with some clever set dressing, simple furniture & lighting states we were transported to a different location for each scene.
The scene changes were supported by live music from Adrian Kerr, covering some well known tracks of The Beatles in keeping with the 1963 setting. I happily hummed along to the well known tunes while the set was being transformed for the following scene. Act 2 Scene 4 was set on Brighton Pier, and with some beautiful simple gates and a lovely streetlamp, this was my favourite scene visually.
The show closed with a song, ‘Tomorrow Looks Good from Here’ a funny little ditty that was a delightful way to end and recap the last couple of hours, and it left the audience grinning.
It’s not surprising this show was a sell out; the wit, the characters, the story the one liners are all ingredients for an entertaining night out & Market Harborough Drama Society’s production of ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ did not disappoint. A very successful show & the standing ovation was well deserved, how about an extended run?
Performance: Sat 6 October 2018, Harborough Theatre, Market Harborough
Ellen Beardsmore is a local theatre producer and performer, working with EG Productions. She graduated from Bath Spa University in 2007 with a BA: Hons in Performing Arts Acting, and continues to work in the industry.