One Man, Two Guvnors

One Man, Two Guvnors
Director: Nicholas Hytner
Writer: Richard Bean
Based on: Carlo Goldoni‘s Servant of Two Masters
Cast: James Corden, Jemima Rooper, Oliver Chris, Suzie Toase, Daniel Rigby, Claire Lams, Tom Edden
Seen on: 9.4.2020
[Here’s my review of an Austrian production of Goldoni’s play.]

Content Note: rape joke

Pauline (Claire Lams) and Alan (Daniel Rigby) are celebrating their engagement when Frances (James Corden) knocks on the door to announce that his employer Roscoe (Jemima Rooper) is there. Roscoe supposedly died a couple of days ago and his sudden appearance is doubly upsetting because Pauline, and more importantly her dowry, were promised to him long time ago. What Pauline doesn’t know is that it isn’t actually Roscoe but his twin sister Rachel who comes to collect the dowry, so she can flee with her fiancé who did kill Roscoe. As Rachel-as-Roscoe waits for the dowry, she takes camp in a hotel. Also in that hotel – unbeknownst to Rachel – is her fiancé Stanley (Oliver Chris). Thinking him unemployed, Stanley hires Frances who is always looking for a way to get to some food. But serving two guvnors isn’t easy, as Frances soon discovers.

I missed this production when it came to the cinemas and now that National Theatre is offering some of their plays to watch at home, it was the ideal opportunity for me to catch up with this one, since I heard a lot of good things about it. And I have to say, it was a very enjoyable production that definitely made me laugh.

Frances (James Corden) holding out a flower.
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A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Director: Nicholas Hytner, Ross MacGibbon
Writer: William Shakespeare
Cast: Oliver Chris, Gwendoline Christie, David Moorst, Isis Hainsworth, Tessa Bonham Jones, Paul Adeyefa, Kit Young, Kevin McMonagle, Felicity Montagu, Hammed Animashaun, Jermaine Freeman, Ami Metcalf, Jamie-Rose Monk, Francis Lovehall
Seen on: 17.10.2019
[Here is my review of an old Austrian production.]

Duke Theseus (Oliver Chris) is about to marry Hippolyta (Gwendoline Christie) when he is approached to solve a dispute: Hermia (Isis Hainsworth) is supposed to marry Demetrius (Paul Adeyefa), but she is in love with Lysander (Kit Young). When Theseus tells her to obey her father, Hermia runs away with Lysander, followed by Demetrius who was warned by Hermia’s friend Helena (Tessa Bonham Jones) who also follows the three into the forest. But the forest is a dangerous place. Even more so since fairy king Oberon (Oliver Chris) is having a fight with his queern Titania (Gwendoline Christie).

I absolutely loved this production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It isn’t perfect, but it is really close. It is definitely funny, beautiful and really cool.

The production poster showing Titania (Gwendoline Christie), Puck (David Moorst), Oberon (Oliver Chris), Bottom (Hammed Animashaun) and the changeling child sittiing on and around a bed in a forest.
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Young Marx

Young Marx
Director: Nicholas Hytner
Writer: Richard Bean, Clive Coleman
Cast: Rory Kinnear, Oliver Chris, Nancy Carroll, Laura Elphinstone, Eben Figueiredo, Nicholas Burns, Tony Jayawardena, Miltos Yerolemou, Duncan Wisbey
Seen on: 7.12.2017

Karl Marx (Rory Kinnear) lives with his wife Jenny (Nancy Carroll) and children in poverty in Soho. Karl seems at odds with everyone around him, from creditors to police to his fellow critical thinkers. He doesn’t seem to mind much because, really, Karl is mostly interested in hanging out with his friend Friedrich Engels (Oliver Chris), who helps keeping the creditors at bay, and getting drunk whenever he gets half a chance.

I assume that Young Marx intended to get away from the revered by stuffy image Marx has acquired in the past 150 years, but it only partly succeeds in pushing Marx of his pedestal. And it only partly succeeds as a play.

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The Lady in the Van (2015)

The Lady in the Van
Director: Nicholas Hytner
Writer: Alan Bennett
Based on: Alan Bennett’s actual experience with Mary Shepherd
Cast: Maggie SmithAlex Jennings, Jim Broadbent, Deborah Findlay, Roger Allam, Dominic Cooper, Frances de la Tour, James Corden, Russell Tovey, Alan Bennett
Seen on: 3.6.2016

Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) moved to a new neighborhood and he quite like it. Part of the neighborhood is Mary Shepherd (Maggie Smith), a woman living in a van parked in his street. She’s weird, often rough and has issues, but Alan does take a liking to her. So when her existence is threatened because her road is being declared a no parking zone, Alan permits her to park the van in his driveway. What was supposed to be only a temporary solution, turns into a long-term fact and Alan starts to find out more about Mary’s past.

The Lady in the Van was a sweet film, told with a sly sense of humor that keeps the story from turning too dark, even when the realities it faces are harsher. It’s an enjoyable mix, although it stays a little too shallow to use the potential for social criticism it would have.

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The Hard Problem

The Hard Problem
Director: Nicholas Hytner
Writer: Tom Stoppard
Cast: Olivia Vinall, Damien Molony, Anthony Calf, Eloise Webb, Daisy Jacob, Parth Thakerar, Vera Chok, Rosie Hilal, Lucy Robinson, Jonathan Coy, Kristin Atherton
Seen on: 16.04.2015

Psychology student Hilary (Olivia Vinall) is working on her thesis with her tutor Spike (Damien Molony). Hilary is convinced that there is something more to life than science and materialism, that there is something godly, whereas Spike is an absolutely materialistic and completely atheistic. But Hilary’s view helps her to secure a job at the renouned Krohl Institute for Brain Science when she answers the Hard Problem – whether consciousness can be completely explained by science – with no. There is a reason for Hilary’s insistence on something bigger than science, one that makes her pray every night for a miracle.

The Hard Problem is a brainy, well-acted and well-directed play that ends up a little too much on the sentimental side but is otherwise extremely enjoyable.

NTLive_TheHardProblem_DigitalA5Portrait_031014.indd[SPOILERS] Continue reading