As I wrote a while back, the National Theatre in England has had a series for several years where they show live some of their productions live in movie theaters around the world. This summer, they are doing an encore series of some of their most popular past productions. (You can read about it here.) A few weeks ago, I went to see Helen Mirren in her Tony-winning performance, again as Queen Elizabeth, in The Audience, written by Peter Morgan who wrote The Queen and much else. Upcoming, I have tickets for Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch and also Frankenstein that stars Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller (of the CBS series, Elementary) switching roles back and forth.
But today was the one I most wanted to see, and have been kicking myself for missing it when it first played. That's the comedy, One Man, Two Guv'nors, starring James Cordern in the role for which he won the Tony Award. I've posted a brief, wonderful two-minute clip from the show in the past -- a couple of times, even, but that's the most of it I've seen. But today I finally got to see the full show.
It was worth the wait. The play is hilarious. The first act is particularly wonderful, where the farce completely unravels, culminating in what's probably a 20-minute hysterical sequence where James Corden (who's quite great, and his Tony Award seems well-deserved) has to serve private dinners to both of his bosses, who are staying in the same hotel, without them knowing. The second act is shorter, and much of it resolves the plot -- and there are long stretches without Corden -- but it's wonderful, as well.
The whole thing is based on an 18th century Commedia dell'arte farce -- from 1743 -- and adapted by Richard Bean. The director is the renowned Nicholas Hytner. The writing is smart and extremely clever, and the production blends the wit with often non-stop physical humor. It also does something I don't tend to care for -- involving the audience -- in a way that works beautifully without overdoing it. At several points, the audience gets directly involved, though one of this clearly is a plant, but set up impeccably.
The play starts a bit slow, but it doesn't take long before things pick up, in large part with Corden's entrance. It also uses music throughout, mostly to help pass the time during scene changes, though the songs generally comment a bit on the action, and even there much of the interludes are such fun -- using the cast, along with the house band -- that you look forward to them. The only hiccup is that this house band begins the show performing for about 10 minutes, for reasons I'm not quite sure why it's that long, getting the audience (at least in the movie theater) a bit anxious. But it passes, and what follows was a joy.
Here's a longer, extended 4-minute montage from the show.