Review: One Man, Two Guvnors, at New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham
As far as most people are concerned, James Corden is just a pirate chest and a sprinkling of gold doubloons away from being a national treasure. Extending that seafaring metaphor, I have to add that he’s never floated my boat.
Until this week, that is, when I experienced his star turn in One Man, Two Guvnors – the hottest show in town.
I won’t bore you with plot details. By and large, they’re irrelevant. Just an excuse to persuade a gang of talented performers to share the same stage.
That’s not to say that Richard Bean hasn’t brilliantly adapted Carlo Goldoni’s commedia dell’Arte masterpiece.
But the fireworks come from the playful, cartoonish dialogue and exuberant slapstick. That’s right – slapstick.
I know physical comedy is meant to be old hat. But in the hands of inspired and energetic actors, it becomes as old hat as a spiffy new baseball cap.
Corden is a big lad, but he’s also limber, with a penchant for pratfalls. He tumbles over chairs, belly-slides across floorboards and bounces off scenery with aplomb.
There’s musical numbers, too, with a beat combo leaping on and off stage, and plucking breezily at skiffle tunes and Beatles pastiches.
The cast also attempt to play instruments, with Corden plonking and plinking a xylophone, while Daniel Rigby, who plays a pretentious actor, devises a makeshift instrument out of his bare torso.
This is exactly what theatre should be about. Fully involving the audience, making every performance seem idiosyncratic and special, and taking risks.
What it most reminded me of, curiously enough, was those loopy sketches from 1970s kids’ TV.
Bernie Clifton and Peter Glaze would have given their eye teeth to join in with all this ramshackle fun. One Man, Two Guvnors – it’s Crackerjack on crack.
Until October 22.
Rating * * * * *