THEATRE REVIEW: Comedy classic that had absolutely everything

COMEDY CLASSIC: Rob Nicholls as Francis Henshall (second right) in the St Nicolas Players' production of One Man Two Guvnors at South Holland Centre, Spalding. Other cast members (from left) are Dan Zampoli (Stanley Stubbers), Joe Dickinson (Alan Dangle), Emily Deans (Pauline Clench) and Nick Fletcher (Harry Dangle).  Photo by Colette Coleman.
COMEDY CLASSIC: Rob Nicholls as Francis Henshall (second right) in the St Nicolas Players' production of One Man Two Guvnors at South Holland Centre, Spalding. Other cast members (from left) are Dan Zampoli (Stanley Stubbers), Joe Dickinson (Alan Dangle), Emily Deans (Pauline Clench) and Nick Fletcher (Harry Dangle). Photo by Colette Coleman.

One Man Two Guvnors, St Nicolas Players, South Holland Centre, Spalding

What happens when typical English slapstick, situation comedy and a touch of dark comedy all meet?

St Nicolas Players took on its most daring and daunting assignment in bringing Richard Bean’s One Man Two Guvnors to the South Holland Centre stage last week.

The London West End hit that turned comedian and US TV talk show host James Corden (Gavin and Stacey) into an award-winning sensation on New York’s Broadway brought the house down in Spalding on four consecutive nights.

Set in early-1960s Brighton, ex-skiffle band member Francis Henshall (Rob Nicholls taking Corden’s role) is given a job as minder to low-level East End gangster Roscoe Crabbe.

But Roscoe is really a disguise for sister Rachel Crabbe (Joanna Hobbs) whose brother died at the hands of “upper class twit”, according to the play’s programme, Stanley Stubbers (Dan Zampoli).

Throw in another Brighton mobster Charlie “The Duck Clench (Norman Parish giving a masterful impression of Bradley Walsh, host of cult TV quiz show The Chase) and the tangled love life of his daughter Pauline (Emily Deans), a recipe for disaster is guaranteed.

All Francis had to do was keep Roscoe/Rachel Crabbe from crossing paths with Stanley Stubbers (whose portrayal was a striking take-off of South Holland and the Deepings MP, John Hayes) and all would be well.

But the heart of the play was Henshall’s increasingly desperate and disastrous attempts to do so, culminating in a mad scene at a seaside restaurant where Henshall’s weakness for food brings total chaos as he tries fill his stomach while serving Crabbe, Clench and Stubbers.

One Man Two Guvnors stood or fell on the performance of Rob Nicholls who well and truly delivered a performance of a lifetime.

Credit must also go to Norman Parish, Amber Sinclair (Dolly, Henshall’s love interest), Joe Dickinson’s over-the-top wannabe actor Alan Fangle and Hugh Walcott’s highly amusing interpretation of Jamaican Lloyd Boateng.

In fact, Hugh could have easily been mistaken for Dragon’s Den star and Reggae Reggae Sauce entrepreneur, Levi Roots.

But mention must be made too of hapless waiters Gareth and Alfie (Jed Laxton and Sam Phillips) who turned minor parts into indispensable ones.

In summary, One Man Two Guvnors was a glorious, side-splitting, rip-roaring riot.

Review by Winston Brown