The National Theatre's globe-conquering One Man, Two Guvnors finally arrives in Melbourne after tantalising reviews from Adelaide, Auckland and Sydney.
The play is an adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s eighteenth-century comedy The Servant of Two Masters, cleverly transporting Galdoni's Venetian period setting to Brighton, 1963, and transforming the Commedia dell'arte clowning into slapstick farce reminiscent of golden-age British sketch comedy.
Kicked out of his skiffle band and desperate for work, Francis Henshall becomes a fixer for two gangster-types, each unaware that Henshall is working for the other.
As his madcap adventures multiply, his former band mates play on, providing an onstage accompaniment to the merry antics.
Skiffle, for the uninitiated, is a kind of blues-heavy jazz, historically played on home-made or improvised instruments like spoons, gut-buckets, and washboards, a product of America's Deep South. Almost out of the blue, it became commerically popular in Britain during the fifties as a sort of precursor to the dancefloor flavours of London's swining sixties.
Known as The Craze the small four-piece that tours with One Man, Two Guvnors has developed something of a cult following of its own. They perform original songs by Grant Olding, whose score was nominated for a Tony – practically unheard of for a non-musical, and one of seven Tony nominations the show received.
During the show's Sydney season, the band won a legion of new fans with the cool way they came to the rescue after technical problems with the set caused a fifteen minute delay in the middle of the first act. Led by musical director Richie "All Heart" Hart, the band expanded their repertoire, riffing on blues standards, and had the audience literally dancing in their seats.
It goes to show you just can't stop the skiffle.
To find out more, read Time Out Sydney's five-star review of One Man, Two Guvnors.
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