One Man, Two Guvnors, Norwich Theatre Royal. December 2012.
Norwich is getting some great London shows at the moment (and next year's brochure looks just as exciting) and I was very pleased to have the opportunity to see this without a trip to London.
I missed the initial buzz around this play when it opened in London, and to be honest the original lead wasn't someone that I particularly liked but after winning so many awards I realised that I'd be daft not to see One Man, Two Guvnors when the chance arose.
I knew that it was a comedy based on a style of theatre from years ago but nothing more than that, and again the not knowing worked very well. The show started with a very good quartet playing guitars, double bass and washboard. The theatre was noisy with people arriving and I couldn't tell if the songs were original or music from the era (late 1950s/ early 1960s). They were very good and it made a nice start to the evening.
To explain the play and plot is nigh on impossible - it is farce, pantomime, melodrama and totally ridiculous...but very funny. As the audience you can see everything that is going to happen it doesn't matter, in fact as the cast address the audience directly throughout it is hard to remember sometimes if you are seeing a stand up comedy show or a play.
The first half was brilliant, I was giggling like a loon throughout and even the audience participation worked a treat - never has the phrase "normal for Norfolk" been more apt. I'm not a great one for slapstick comedy violence but the restaurant scene was just perfect.
The second half didn't quite hit my funny bone in the same way, the humour became a little cruder and the script felt like it had run out of steam.
The actors gave it their all throughout even if events and interjections caused them to corpse more than once - who knew Swaffham could cause such hilarity?!
It was still a fun evening and for once seeing a comedy alone didn't matter - the play was funny enough to overcome the need to share the emotion - but Noises Off* remains the funniest thing I have ever seen in a theatre.
*luckily for me (and Mr Norfolkbookworm) the Old Vic are touring Noises Off next year and Norwich is one of the cities it is coming to. Time to book some tickets I feel!