It's a few years now since the Theatre Royal Brighton made the brave move away from the traditional Christmas pantomime. I've never really been a fan of panto so I was delighted that the Theatre Royal was offering an alternative. Initially they chose to host musicals but this year's big show is One Man, Two Guvnors and as the smash-hit comedy is set in Brighton it seems only fitting that it comes home for Christmas.
|Gavin Spokes (Francis Hensall) OneMan2Guvs, NT by Johan Persson|
This was another example of a play I had intended to go and see when it was on in London but never quite got round to it so I was thrilled to finally get the chance to see it. Of course there is always a slight sense of trepidation when going to see something that has been so popular for so long - can it really live up to all the hype? And I'll be honest during the opening scene I was starting to wonder what the fuss was about but once the focus shifted to Francis Henshall the laughs really started. There are moments of pure slapstick, the timing of which was perfect. There's also some audience participation and while Francis was cheeky, there was no hint of malice. During last night's performance there was an added bit of audience participation which could have really thrown some actors but Gavin Spokes (Francis Henshall) rolled with it and made it so funny. Although kudos to the audience member for perhaps the most Brighton heckle ever - hummus sandwich!
It's not all slapstick though, there are some fabulous one liners and even a bit of satire. But the big laughs are drawn from the farcical moments of misunderstandings and mistaken identities. This is really Francis Henshall's show but I did also love Alan Dingle the ridiculously hammy actor. I should also mention The Crazes, the 1960s live band who helped to liven up the potentially tiresome scene changes.
While this isn't a traditional Christmas show, it is a festive treat. Tickets are selling fast for the three-week run so if you want to see it, get in quick! See the Theatre Royal website for details and to book.