City of Brighton, located on the south coast of England, 1963. Mobster businessman Charlie Duck Clench (Fred Ridgway) is celebrating the engagement of his daughter Pauline (Claire Lams) to lawyer Harry Dangle’s (Martin Ellis) son Alan (Daniel Rigby) with guests. Charlie tells Harry that he promised his daughter’s hand in marriage to his old business partner, Roscoe Crabbe, but it turns out that Roscoe was murdered, so Pauline can now marry whoever she wants, even Alan, who wants to be an actor and is all so uplifting that Charlie actively dislike.
Suddenly there is a knock on the door and a funny fat man in a plaid three-piece suit enters the room. His name is Francis Henshall (James Corden) and he introduces himself as Roscoe Crabbe’s servant, who, according to Francis, is downstairs: he has come to be engaged to Pauline. Everyone is in shock.
A few minutes later, a man enters the room, introducing himself as Roscoe Crabbe. However, this is not Roscoe, but Rachel Crabbe (Jemima Ruper), Roscoe’s twin sister. Of all those present, only the owner of the pub with the hotel Lloyd Boateng (Trevor Laird), an old acquaintance of Charlie, knows in the face of Roscoe and Rachel. Lloyd is very nice to Rachel and confirms to Charlie that it is Roscoe.
Charlie tells Rachel that he does not go back on his word: Pauline will marry Roscoe and Charlie will pay back the six thousand pounds he promised.
Rachel and Francis check into Lloyd’s Hotel, Rachel goes about her business, and while Francis hangs around near the hotel, an energetic young man Stanley Stubbers (Oliver Chris) arrives there. He is Rachel’s lover and came to Brighton to meet her and escape together to Australia: it was Stanley who killed Roscoe and is wanted by the police.
Stanley invites Francis to enter his service, and Henshall, who rightly decides that two salaries are always better than one, agrees. There will be a lot of confusion after this, but love will prevail in the end. I mean, Francis’ love of food and beer.
Many of my readers at a certain age, having found the United States, in the description of the plot of the performance, of course, will recognize the plot of the wonderful film “Truffaldino from Bergamo”, staged by Vladimir Vorobyov based on the classic play by Carlo Goldoni “Servant of Two Masters”.
Based on this play, the British playwright Richard Bean made his own version called “One Servant, Two Masters”, in which he transferred the plot twists and turns to England in 1963, which allowed him to add excellent jokes about The Beatles and add flavor to British theatrical vaudeville.
The performance based on this play was staged in 2011 by the head of the National Theater of Great Britain, Nicholas Hytner, and the role of Francis Hytner was originally planned by James Corden, who had previously played in a very popular production of “History Lovers”, and Hytner himself made the same name out of this production a movie that I found and want to watch.
“One Servant, Two Masters” was performed triumphantly for several years at the National Theatre, the troupe took it to Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand, they played it on Broadway, where the performance was also a wild success.
This production has as many as five nominations for the Laurence Olivier Award, however, strangely, not a single nomination has won, which caused great surprise among the British theater audience.
A few days ago, the National Theater posted a film recording of this performance for free on YouTube for a while. (Now the performance is no longer available there.) The video contained an appeal to donate some funds on the website of the National Theater – to support it. And I immediately transferred the amount to them immediately after watching the performance, because I have not seen anything more ridiculous on the theater stage, the performance is absolutely wonderful.
This is a two-act performance with one intermission, running for two and a half hours. During the change of scenery in front of the closed curtain, the skiffle group The Craze performs their songs, and from time to time one of the actors of the performance joins them, who play various instruments, and sometimes sing. For example, James Corden played the xylophone here, and Oliver Chris played a very cool klaxon kit.
James Corden is just some kind of hurricane. (He is generally a man of various talents who has achieved tremendous success in various fields, and in addition to the UK, he also had an impressive career in the States as a TV presenter and actor, and Corden never changed his British pronunciation.) He has a very funny facial expression, very interesting way of speaking, and at times he does things that make Bublik and I laugh to tears, especially in the scene where Francis manages to fight himself. Delight, pure delight. In addition, Corden (and some of the other actors in the play) at times communicate directly with the audience, bringing some of them on stage, and there are also very funny moments associated with this.
The second great character in the play is Stanley Stubbers, brilliantly played by Oliver Chris (the great Boyce from Green Wing). Stanley also has an interesting way of speaking, he makes funny jokes about his studies at a private college, is sarcastic, but always serious.
Smeraldina from A Servant of Two Masters is here transformed into Dolly (Susie Toaz), Charlie Clench’s accountant. Dolly is an independent and emancipated lady, a supporter of women’s equality. Francis courts her, and Dolly, who has not had a serious relationship for a long time, accepts these courtships. Her dialogues with Francis are hilariously funny, and Dolly, following the example of Smeraldina, also gave out a fiery speech with a transparent allusion to Margaret Thatcher, and the hall there simply fell asleep with laughter during this speech.
In the posh dinner scene at the climax of the first act, where Francis serves two hosts at once, a waiter named Alfie appears. He is eighty-seven years old, he looks like a zombie, barely moves, gets into all sorts of trouble, and it looks so funny that Alfie at times even draws the attention of the audience away from the character of Corden.
In general, this is an absolutely magnificent performance, which I watched with great pleasure and just a day later reviewed it in its entirety again.
So if you haven’t watched it yet, you should definitely do it, you won’t regret it. Where to get? There is in a known place in the original with United Statesn and English subtitles. And if you like the performance, then support the National Theatre, they deserve it. (However, I warn you that the procedure for making a donation is strangely confused. Apparently, due to the peculiarities of British laws on this matter.)
PS I read that after 2012 the production moved to the Theater Royal Haymarket, where Owen Arthur began to play the main role, and this production was even visited by the royal family. I found on the Internet a couple of frames from this production with Owen Arthur.
One Servant, Two Masters / One Man, Two Guvnors movie meaning
Director: Nicholas Hytner Cast: James Corden, David Benson, Oliver Chris, Polly Conway, Jolyon Dixon, Tom Edden, Martin Ellis, Derek Elroy, Trevor Laird, Claire Lams, Daniel Rigby, Fred Ridgway, Susie Toaz
Film-play, UK, 2011, 180 min.