‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ brings British witticisms to UCA stage

Graham Shapley

Program
“One Man, Two Guvnors” is directed by Walt Jones for CSU and written by Richard Bean. (Collegian | Graham Shapley)

A small piece of British culture has made its way to the University Center for the Arts stage with “One Man, Two Guvnors.

The play is a farce that stacks complication upon complication onto Francis Henshall, a personal servant who takes on two jobs for two “guvnors” (bosses) in an effort to collect two paychecks. Every character is wrapped up in a plot involving murder, mistaken identities, identical twins, love and soup.

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If the translation notes are any indication, this show is exceedingly British. Set in 1963 Brighton, a seaside town in the south United Kingdom, almost every character has a distinct accent appropriate to the era and the locale. This can lead to confusing dialogue due to cultural differences, but the average audience member will be able to follow the plot without much trouble.

The set is built on a rotating disc, allowing easy scene changes when the last setting spins out of view as the new room emerges. Some sets appear only once or twice, being changed out behind the scenes while the play is in progress.

All of this staging is done with a knowing wink to the audience. Characters will step out of scene for a brief moment of self-reflection. They often remind themselves that they are in a precarious circumstance and will have to watch their words without being caught in a lie.

A certain segment towards the end of act one will leave viewers asking whether what they saw was real or not. This is an impressive feat for a stage show which earlier features a nun running through the theatre yodeling.

According to National Theatre, “One Man, Two Guvnors” is a British adaptation of “Servant of Two Masters,” a 1743 Italian comedy that premiered in 2011 at the National Theatre in London. It starred writer and actor James Corden, who won a Tony after the play came to Broadway in 2012 for his role as Henshall.

Should you see it? Yes, if British humor is your cup of tea.

Very British but also incredibly funny, “One Man, Two Guvnors” is a hilarious treat and well worth your time and money. The acting is hammy yet expressive, and the set is a treat to see in motion.

Tickets cost $10 for adults and are free for CSU students. 

Collegian reporter Graham Shapley can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com and on Twitter @shapleygraham.