One Man Two Guvnors

Date 15th December 2016
Society Wick Theatre Company
Venue The Barn Theatre, Southwick
Type of Production Play with Music
Director Tony Browning & Bob Ryder


Author: Lance Milton

I had wanted to see this play in London when it was at the Adelphi with James Corden in the lead role but sadly circumstance and ridiculously busy life prevented the opportunity, so I was thrilled to find that Wick were to produce the play. The award winning company never fail to attain the high production values and performance standard that is professional in all but the monetary sense and exactly what all amateur companies should set as the bar.

On arrival we were met with the beautiful Skiffle tones of ‘The Kraze’ a four piece band who are clearly more than a tip of the hat to Grant Olding’s ‘The Craze’ who provided the original scoring and accompaniment for the West End debut production. The sound they produced was polished, balanced and toe tappingly intoxicating and this threaded beautifully through the entire production and was perfectly mixed by the technical team whose input was wholly first class throughout. Stage management, lighting and sound were tight and creative while always greatly adding mood to the performance rather than being overtly bold in isolation. An imaginative articulately finished set using six Periaktois including two practical doors was slickly handled and scenes changed by the cast in a delightfully choreographed slapstick manner accompanied by the band.

The construct and writing of this play is an exquisite modern retelling of the 1743 Commedia Dell’arte, Carlo Goldini’s Servant of Two Masters. Richard Bean has captured not only the hilarity of the original but also the custom and feel of 1960’s Brighton as its setting, where we meet the protagonist of our piece, Francis Henshall. We invest in this character extensively as he consistently breaks the fourth wall to engage us and indeed involve members of the audience [and plants] in the show. The commitment, not least the physical excursion, required for the part are vital and instrumental in carrying the plot, so it is no surprise that the premier accolade for excellence must be given to Mark Best whose charm, charisma and sheer stamina were an astonishing delight.

The entire company were on point and while it seems unfair to highlight others I particularly enjoyed Mathew Arnold’s spot on public-school-caricature portrayal of Stanley Stubbers and the natural perfectly timed delivery from Rose Hall-Smith as a hilariously dense Pauline Clench. However it was one of the directors, Bob Ryder under the tickling pseudonym Bran Pitt, who provided the belly-laugh-until-I-cried moment of the show with his physical comic genius wine bottle opening routine. Sheer brilliance! A brilliance that was typical of the entire production he directed alongside Tony Brownings. This was yet another resounding success for the Wick both artistically and highly deservedly at box office too with every show sold out or at least very full. A masterclass in how to do it!