Sunday, 18 November 2018

Audience left squirming in their seats

WRITTEN by Richard Bean and based on The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Godoni in the Italian

WRITTEN by Richard Bean and based on The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Godoni in the Italian Commedia dell’arte style, this production plunged us straight into the psychedelic Sixties by way of some funky geometric wallpaper and an excellent Beatlesque band The Whom encouraging us to sing along to Hey Jude.

As the title would suggest, one man, Francis (Max Puplett), finds himself comically beholden to two different guvnors, which enables many farcical situations to unfold.

It is Brighton in 1963 and gangster Roscoe Crabbe (Hannah Collman) needs a hand — at the same time as his nemesis, Stanley Stubbers (Michael Beakhouse).

Both Roscoe and Stanley employ Francis, unbeknown to one another, and this is how it must stay. For not only must Francis maintain his subterfuge in order to keep the pay cheques coming, but also it turns out that Stanley killed Roscoe — and this version of Roscoe is in fact his twin sister, Rachel, in disguise.

To further complicate things, Rachel’s lover is Stanley Stubbers. Cue much confusion when Francis is offered kickbacks (“for your guvnor”) and personal letters.

There are many subplots, twists and turns, as Roscoe was engaged to the sweetly naïve (okay, dumb) Pauline who now wants to marry over-the-top am-dram artist Alan. In turn a lot of people’s fates rest on a successful outcome (this is gangster land after all), so we the audience hope that the guy gets the girl and the, er, girl gets the guy.

The capacity audience enjoyed it very much, as staying true to the Commedia dell’arte form we were engaged with directly, with several audience members very much becoming entangled in the action (and a few squirming in their seats).

Some standout scenes involved a staircase, wibbly-wobbly waiter service courtesy of elderly Alfie (Clive Elkington) and much opening and closing of doors.

Rachel is a very convincing Roscoe, Francis carries a great monologue and Stanley is a hoot (check out the hairy chest for a start). With lots of in-jokes and nudge-nudge, wink-wink jailtime references, a little bit of raunch and a lot of romance, we thought this production was blissfully funny with a kaleidoscope of characters.

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