Preview: One Man, Two Guvnors
‘One Man, Two Guv’nors’ is a ridiculous, hilarious, and unapologetically silly play which “no one should be able to watch without having a fantastic time” - according to the Director, Isobel Sinclair. It follows the struggles of Francis Henshaw as he attempts to work for two different ‘guv’nors’ for financial gain in order to pursue the two loves of his life, food and Dolly (a charming bookkeeper), a plan that relies on his two employers never meeting.
Needless to say, hilarity ensues against the colourful backdrop of 1960s Brighton. This play (adapted from a 17th Century commedia dell'arte) was made famous starring James Corden at the National Theatre in London. I sat down with several members of the cast and crew to find out how - as a team - they plan to pull off this outrageously over-the-top show in just four weeks.
‘One man, two guv’nors’ is quite a change of tone from a lot of the student productions here in St Andrews - why did you choose to do this play?
Director (Isobel Sinclair): Because it’s bloody good fun really. That's just the best way to describe it, I think no one should be able to watch this play without having a fantastic time. It should be great for everyone involved in it and it should be great for everyone who sees it. I think that that’s something we really needed in the town [...] something completely positive and totally uplifting.
What do you think has been the biggest challenge of the rehearsal process? Producer (Ellie Hope): For me it was the combination of having 12 actors and 3.5 weeks. Getting 12 people who are all very busy in a room at once, and then on top of that getting the countless props and set pieces together…
Director: It's such a complicated show from just a backstage point of view, ignoring the complications onstage… hideously complicated. I am not a director - I haven’t directed. This was a bit of a baptism of fire. Going from nothing to the Byre slot with something of this scale, I know I’m a perfectionist and I think with 3.5 weeks it’s been difficult accepting that we can have a fantastic show that’s not going to be absolutely everything it could have possibly been. [...] I think what we’ve achieved is pretty bloody impressive in 3 and a half weeks. I think what we’ve got is pretty special, and I’m so proud of everyone for what they’ve given, and are still giving. It’s taken a lot out of everyone, I think everyone needs a holiday afterwards, or a pint.
Producer: Or a huge party after.
Director: Oh, I’ve got big plans.
While challenging, rehearsals sound like a lot of fun - what’s been the best part? Jack Malone (plays Alan Dangle): There’s some times in rehearsals when Isabelle absolutely loses it and just continues laughing. We’re not even doing anything funny and she’s just lost the plot.
Director: I think I’ve reached the point where I’m hindering my actors rather than making them feel better.
Producer: There’s nothing better than when you’re in rehearsal and someone tries something a little bit new and you notice it and you can’t stop laughing. You know you’ve seen a scene 25 times by now but you can still find little bits that you hadn’t noticed before.
Ben Hood (Plays Harry Dangle): I’ve done a few plays [in St Andrews] and I’d say the best part for me of any production is just the cast becoming a really good friend group. I think it's just that opportunity to meet such a range of people who you would never really run into in the same setting otherwise. That's always my favourite part of any play [...] especially with such a lovely group of people, [...] which I think is partly up to like Izzi, Charlie and Ellie.
Director: That was a priority in choosing the cast, because we’ve had 3 and a half weeks to do this, and it’s been very, very intense, and we knew it was going to be intense, so if we’d picked people who weren’t going to get on it would’ve been a disaster.
Assistant Producer (Charlie Robertson): Also generally with the comedic timing, you need people who gel well together onstage and people who understand one another’s sense of humour.
The audition process for this piece was pretty competitive - why do you think you were selected for your role (to Ben Hood, who plays Harry Dangle)?
Ben Hood: I’ve done theatre since I was about 11, [...] and it was always something that really brought me out of my shell, because when I was a kid I was really shy. So, I think, the reason I got picked is that theatre has taught me to leave everything on the stage, [...] it's taught me to just let go. Theatre’s all about having fun, not about taking yourself so seriously and worrying what people are going to think of you. I definitely think every play always teaches me something about myself that I didn’t think I could do before. This has definitely taught me a lot about just stepping out of my comfort zone. I’d never really played someone that was really uppity and posh and crooked and, you know, pretentious and up their own arse.
Does that reflect why you chose him?
Director: I think that’s absolutely why we cast [him]. We went for people that weren’t afraid to try new things in the auditions. It was why we had people try stupid musical interludes, because if they were willing to humiliate themselves they were what we wanted. Ben went straight for it.
Assistant Producer: [He] came across as incredibly comfortable and settled whereas some people in auditions, they can be very very good but they don’t look at home onstage.
What made you want to get involved in the play in the first place (to Jack Malone, who plays Alan Dangle)?
Jack Malone: Actually it was my lover in the play, my friend Fiona [Nevin]. She told me to come down to the auditions, so I came to the Barron and read over the audition pieces for about a second, and I immediately read Alan’s monologue talking about destiny and buses and I just knew that it was hilarious - and it was destiny. [...] I just had so much fun. When I read that monologue I just saw so many different things that I could do with it and literally be as over the top as I want. [the auditioning process] was really intimidating. I really wanted Alan, and just thought ‘I have to make sure they remember me’.
Assistant Producer: It was probably the first audition where you’d ever had to perform the key change from ‘my heart will go on’ in Falsetto.
What’s the atmosphere been like backstage?
Producer: They [the cast] have been amazing. There’s a lot of waiting around in a play like this because it’s a big cast who all need to be there all the time, waiting in the wings to come on. It can be so tedious and frustrating.
Assistant Producer: There’s a very nice connection between the cast. Everyone gets on very well. It means that long rehearsals are a little bit more bearable.
There’s a fair amount of audience participation in the show, how did you manage that in rehearsals?
Director: We were very lucky because our lead (Ed Palsy) is in Blind Mirth, the improv group, so he’s very used to improvising with the audience and he’s the one who does most of it. Audience participation is fun in St Andrews too because you can see your friends being picked on, or the cast can maybe even pick someone they know, so that's something that's especially fun in a student setting, there’s so much more potential for jokes.
Producer: It’s the sort of show where you shouldn’t sit in the front row if you don’t want to be picked on.
Would you say that there’s anything interesting you’ve done with the venue that you want the audience to look out for?
Assistant producer: The interludes, the musical interludes
Director: They’re still a work in progress. We’re going to have, quite significant set changes so to try and distract the audience [...] we’re going to have our actors performing.
Jack Malone: I cannot sing Celine Dion.
Written By: Lydia Austin-Zimmerman
All Photographs courtesy of the St. Andrews production One Man, Two Guvnors