In the grip of terror and incompetence, a few laughs wouldn’t hurt.
Nearly three hours of slapstick are being sent our way this week by the National Theatre in London – for free, unless you are inclined to donate.
Thursday was Opening Day, and I looked forward to it the way I normally look forward to baseball’s Opening Day.
Baseball teams normally open the season with their best pitcher; NTLive began with the smash hit from 2011, “One Man, Two Guvnors,” starring James Corden as an oaf in a checkered suit, willing to do almost anything for a few bob here and there.
Starving, he falls in with a bunch of grifters and mugs and hustlers and dimwits, the likes of which I had not seen since the last televised Cabinet meeting, except those blokes in DC are not funny at all.
The plays originated from the three-theatre shrine on the Southbank – our favorite place in England. My wife has been known to see two plays a day, all week long, while I was laboring at Wimbledon.
In recent years, a selection of the best plays has been available as NTLive in movie houses around the world, for a price. But with London shut down, NTLive found a way to send a selection to the huddled world, via the web and outlets like YouTube.
I could not locate it on the YouTube site, which contained a thousand things I did not want to watch and no apparent directory. But I was easily able to pull up “One Man” on my laptop.
Corden came into my periscope only recently, through his romp in “Carpool Karaoke” with Paul McCartney – on Penny Lane and other holy places.
That inspired us to catch “One Man, Two Guvnors,” when it popped up in Patchogue, Long Island, last fall, one day only. We roared as Corden performs pratfalls and inter-acts with the audience – including one charming plant – as his character escapes violence from his two raffish guvnors, as he ogles the pub food and also a new lady friend named Dolly.
This collection of characters has been adapted by Richard Bean from the original Servant of Two Masters (Italian: Il Servitore di Due Padroni), a 1743 Commedia dell'arte comedy play by Carlo Goldoni.
There is a bit of everything in “One Man, Two Guvnors” – various thugs, a ham actor, an old-fashioned skiffle band, a scheming woman in drag who knows how to brandish a knife, a charming little breakout of Calypso steel band, and a hapless old waiter – 86, with the shakes -- who keeps getting knocked down the stairs or hit by a cricket bat.
Gets your minds off the troubles for a bit. NTLive, bless its heart, has brought this diversion into our living rooms.
Without further ado, here is the link to the show:
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“One Man, Two Guvnors” is available at home until next Thursday, followed by weekly appearances of “Jane Eyre,” “Treasure Island” and “Twelfth Night,” with Malvolio as a woman, so 21st Century. It's almost always terrific.
We have already seen “Jane Eyre” and “Twelfth Night,” via NTLive, in The Kew Gardens Cinema,” in my home borough of Queens.
NTLive, we owe you,
Oh, there is a way to donate from The States. We just did.
“They may hate the cultural context they now find themselves teaching in, but they love their work. The Achilles’ heel of schoolteachers, one all too easily exploited by politicians, is that they love their students.”
(One of the best reads in the NYT these days is Margaret Renkl, in Nashville. In her latest post, Renkl describes the dedicated core of “born teachers” – the majority, she submits.)
(From Madeleine Albright in one of her final interviews in February):
“Putin is small and pale,” I wrote, “so cold as to be almost reptilian.” He claimed to understand why the Berlin Wall had to fall but had not expected the whole Soviet Union to collapse. “Putin is embarrassed by what happened to his country and determined to restore its greatness.” – Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, recalling her first meeting with the relatively unknown Vladimir Putin in 2000. – The New York Times, Feb. 23, 2022.