One Man, Two Guvnors
Citadel Theatre, Shoctor Stage
Through Sunday, November 16, 2014
Tickets $30 and up, www.citadeltheatre.com
Review by GRAHAM HICKS
In One Man, Two Guvnors, Francis (John Ullyatt) splays away with a metaphorical comedic machine gun, shooting off humour in every which direction, at every which moment, within every which comedy device ever devised since the first playwright walked on his or her back legs.
Lord, this is one great screwball comedy that Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre has used to brighten up its 2014/15 season – up there with previous productions such as Monty Python’s Spamalot, Noises Off, the Noel Coward runabouts and Tom Wood’s initial adaptation of The Servant of Two Masters – on which this show is also based – back in 2002/03.
As the program notes usefully point out, British playwright Richard Bean is a worthy heir to the brilliant line of British physical/spoken humour that stretches from Spike Milligan to Peter Sellers, John Cleese, Dudley Moore and Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean).
It’s not just Ullyatt, who offers up one of his best ever comedic performances. It’s the entire cast, the vast array of comedic devices they use, and director Bob Baker’s uncanny ability to keep the show on the edge, but never spinning out of control.
There’s line after line of throw-away humour, physical comedy, improvisation, audience interplay, audience interplay that isn’t interplay, outrageous characters that keep returning to the stage in full overblown glory.
And every time these ridiculous but loveable characters return to interact with Francis – the servant of two masters – they make you laugh all the harder.
The plot is almost beside the point – it’s just a wonderfully silly framework for the actors to go over-the-top at every excuse.
What’s encouraging about this large ensemble is the recruitment by Baker of what promises to be the next wave of Citadel actors. They are emerging out of both the pre-professional Citadel young companies (Jill Agopsowicz) and the Citadel/Banff Centre Professional Theatre Program (Lousie Lambert) and the community at large.
Joining the likes of Ullyatt, Julian Arnold and Glenn Nelson are three actors in particular that come to the forefront in this production.
Teatro la Quindicina alumnus Andrew MacDonald-Smith is screamingly funny as Alfie, the ancient, barely mobile bellhop who keeps falling down the stairs with the greatest of gusto.
Mat Busby has been given the green light to play the theatre-struck drama queen Gareth as broadly as is theatrically possible. Busby pulls it off with magnificent glib gusto.
Jesse Gervais has been in multiple Edmonton theatre productions, but his comedy side has never had as much fun as playing off Ullyat’s character as the poncey Stanley Stubbers. Gervais is all wrist flip, poseur, with a proper snotty English accent in which he delivers the most bawdy of phrases!
Special mention to the Be-Arthurs – the whimsical Edmonton band made up of actor/musicians Sheldon Elter, Ryan Parker, Bob Rasko and Scott Shpeley. The Be-Arthurs perform in character as the skiffle band The Craze in the show. They are yet another wonderful touch on the multi-layered just-for-laughs production.
One Man, Two Guvnors – the script and this particular production - represents all that’s right and good in contemporary British style theatrical humour.
Go. You cannot possibly be disappointed. Any post-show belly-aching you may have will come only because you laughed too hard.