At last, the day came. We were off to see One Man, Two Guvnors in one of its last performances at the Adelphi, shortly before its transfer to the Theatre Royal. We booked such an eternity ago that the boys were uncertain that I’d get the date right; even so, the only tickets going were a long way from the stage. I’m not sure it wasn’t better, however, to be in the gods. Part of the joy of the evening is laughing with other people. It’s more democratic in the cheap seats.
After the gales of laughter in the first half, it would have taken a monsoon of mirth to outdo them in the second. It was an impossible task. Noises Off, at the Old Vic before Christmas, was better constructed, with a climax that properly rounds off the whole thing. One Man, Two Guvnors isn’t so much a play as a vehicle for the genius of the cast and its director.
Suddenly, I understood all those Restoration comedies, which seemed so flat when I read them as an undergraduate. Great comic acting can bring anything alive. Would Carlo Goldoni, who wrote the 18th-century play on which One Man, Two Guvnors is based, have got all the jokes? Probably not, but Tom Edden as the decrepit waiter is universal.