Owain Arthur & Jodie Prenger in One Man, Two Guvnors. Photo credit: Johan Persson.
This week One Man, Two Guvnors opened at the Theatre Royal Haymarket with a new cast led by James Corden's understudy, Owain Arthur. The show was essentially very, very good and by West-End standards is a sure hit. However, niggling in the back of my mind was a persistant voice going. "Wait, haven't we seen this? But slightly better?" The only word I could say for days after seeing the original cast at the National Theatre was flawless, it was simply flawless. Never have I seen a play so meticulously perfect in every aspect. There was no weak member of the cast and the comedy set pieces were hilarious and precise. One of the difficult things to do with comedy, especially physical, is the technical detail. Brilliant comedy which looks free and effortless is infact simply the product of tireless work and rehearsal. I feel almost villainous saying this, but to put it simply the new cast is just not as good.
I would pick out Owain Arthur as the only exception to this. Although ever so slightly different to Corden's performance, I would confidently say that it was equally as good. The disappointment was with his supporting cast members. Oliver Chris' Stanley Stubbers, from the original cast, was a perfect characterisation of the public-school toff and received raucous laughter after every line and Suzie Toase's Dolly was impeccable with her slight gestures and her 'look to camera' witticisms. Unfortunately the new equivalent's were somewhat slacker and Jodie Prenger (from BBC I'd Do Anything fame) broke into laughter at several points throughout. There was an unfortunate sense that those involved had become too aware of the praise heaped on the play itself and therefore expected the text to carry them through. When the show first moved to the West End, Oliver Chris described the play as a roller-coaster that was unrelenting in it's humour - once you were on it, there was no getting off. This was certainly not the case with this new production which, although very good, experiences drops in pace throughout and just a simple failure of any laughter on some lines that had the audience rolling in the aisles in the previous production.
However, One Man Two Guvnors is still a must see show in London and is certainly very, very funny. Any criticism of the performances are done with the original in mind and although somewhat dissapointing, they still are great performances in an excellent play.
One Man, Two Guvnors is currently playing at The Theatre Royal, Haymarket with a new cast. The original cast will reprise their roles at the Music Box Theatre, Broadway on 6th April.
For more information go to www.onemantwoguvnors.com