At the ripe old age of 33, James Corden has made good use of his post-Gavin & Stacey time. Corden co-created and co-wrote the popular British comedy series with G&S co-star, Ruth Jones, which ended after three seasons in 2010. So popular was it that in three short seasons, the series went from a rather obscure premiere on BBC Three to BBC Two and then, ultimately, BBC One.
As I’ve written before, rightly or wrongly, the one thing, in my mind, that has continued to set a majority of actors in the UK apart from their U.S. counterparts is their ‘formal’ training in theater and their desire to bounce from television roles, be it comedy or drama, to the live stage and back again. Regional theater is still alive and well throughout the UK and, more often than not, you will be able to see your favorite British comedy or drama star on stage up close and personal in front of a live audience. To this day, it’s not uncommon to look up and see the likes of Felicity Kendal, Penelope Keith, Patricia Routledge, Geoffrey Palmer, etc. on stage in Bath, Guildford, etc.
Now, U.S. audiences are getting that chance as Gavin & Stacey fans can see James Corden’s return to Broadway in One Man, Two Guvnors based on Carlo Goldoni’s 18th-century farce, The Servant of Two Masters. Playwright Richard Bean and director Sir Nicholas Hytner have updated the setting to the British seaside town of Brighton in the early 1960’s. They didn’t ask me, the ‘updating’ also includes a few additional tweaks to accommodate the unfamiliarity of most Americans with some British expressions. Corden stars as Frances Henshall who finds himself in the employ of two demanding bosses (i.e. the guvnors), who are both criminals on the lam. The British farce opened on Wednesday to rave reviews and critical acclaim.
If you find yourself within any reasonable distance of the Big Apple, head over to the Music Box Theatre on West 45th Street for an enjoyable evening. If not, and you are in the vicinity of the Theatre Royal Haymarket London, you can catch the National Theatre presentation of One Man, Two Guvnors starring Owain Arthur and Hannah Spearritt (Abby Maitland, Primeval)
The New York Times‘ Ben Brantley said: “The production never justifies that sinking sensation that arrives when I hear the words ‘British comedy’.” Given the almost 50-year history that British comedy and drama has in the States, I’ve never experienced this so-called ‘sinking senstation’ as Brantley talks about and, as a result, would have preferred this to remain true to it’s original language, but that comes from the great good fortune of having watched the best television on the planet for the past 30+ years. Enjoy.