Review: Rock, roll and lots of fun in hit musical comedy

Darren Pratt as Francis Henshall with (from left) co-stars Emma Marshall, Millie Wardle and Hannah Burt
Darren Pratt as Francis Henshall with (from left) co-stars Emma Marshall, Millie Wardle and Hannah Burt

Ed Green reviews One Man, Two Guvnors at Rugby Theatre

You think your life’s chaotic? Try being Francis Henshall for a day.

There’s something Schadenfreude about English comedy. Watching someone else trapped as the stress builds, tickles us to the core. Yet this is the plight of Francis, a stereotypical underclass 1960s Londoner who happens to find himself the pawn to two very different criminal bosses.

If you ever wanted to know what happens when Grease collides with Fawlty Towers this is the show for you. Displaying clever wit, humorous dialogue and random scatterings of innovative audience participation, Robert Sloan’s directorial talents shine through. In a full house of diverse demography the real spirit of the’60s was set with introduction from local band The Rattletones, who were excellent throughout providing links between set transitions. Interaction between the characters grew naturally as the script unfurled to a final scene showered with golden one-liners, well-oiled slapstick and verbal gymnastics.

Darren Pratt excelled himself as the anxiety-ridden, loveable rogue Henshall, taking impromptu crowd interaction and a few errors comfortably in his stride. Mark Baird as an upper-class public schoolboy criminal was hilarity on legs and Jonathan Pollard’s lovestruck, slightly mad Alan Dangle brought the house down.

Hannah Burt interpreted Roscoe and Rachel in exemplary fashion, while Emma Marshall as cliché ‘60s blonde Pauline Clench portrayed ‘unspoilt by education’ very well. Millie Wardle as steely-eyed feminist Dolly was wholly loved by the audience and although a little hard to hear at times took to the role.

Ambitious stunts with pyrotechnics and perfectly choreographed slapstick showed the dedication of the cast and crew, not omitting set design, a real credit to Mike Derville.

A personal highlight was actors’ doubling up musically, providing singing and instrumental talents during set changes; Simon Burne plays a mean set of spoons!

By curtain close, members of the audience were on their feet– and rightly so.

* One Man, Two Guvnors runbs until Saturday April 16. Call 01788 541234 to book.