TITLE: The Man With Two Gaffers, Huddersfield Thespians
VENUE: Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield
REVIEW: William Marshall
A FULL-ON Yorkshire play is a rarity. Even the actors with a company such as Huddersfield Thespians probably spend more of their careers adopting an American accent, say, than that of their home county.
If only for this reason The Man With Two Gaffers, in which most of the characters speak broad Yorkshire, is an interesting and refreshing production – although there is a paradox – the play is actually an adaptation by Blake Morrison of an Italian comedy. This itself was drawn from the commedia dell arte tradition.
Despite this provenance, the play that emerges is as Yorkshire as spice cake with cheese. Set in Skipton, it revolves around an attempt by a Dales farmer to marry off his daughter to a wealthy Bradford mill owner.
The ensuing complications, deceptions and disguises defy concise summary, but they are farcical and improbable in the extreme and the catalyst for the drama is a roguish chancer named Arthur Dodge, who succeeds in becoming the manservant of two of the play’s principal characters. His self-serving attempts to manipulate the position add to the web of misunderstanding.
In the role of Dodge, Joshua Hemingway acts with great gusto. Indeed there is a good standard of acting throughout the cast. Eric Pratt’s curmudgeonly farmer is perhaps the most ineffably Yorkshire character on stage, and Rachel Elsley is entertaining as the voluptuous housekeeper Esme.
Like all farce, however, this is a deceptively difficult play to bring off and while the stagecraft and the pace of Leighton Hirst’s production are creditable, I feel that if The Man With Two Gaffers were to work really well, the tempo would have to be increased to prestissimo and the levels of mannerism and exaggeration pushed to the extreme.
This is, quite literally, a zany play and while the Thespians do not attempt naturalism they could have adopted an even more clownish approach.
The Man With Two Gaffers continues until Saturday, when there is also a matinee.