It is testament to the writing skills of Richard Bean and the supreme talent of the energetic and committed cast that an obscure 18th Century Commedia dell’Arte farce has a packed audience of 21st Century Glaswegians rolling in the aisles. Bean’s One Man, Two Guv’nors has been appearing throughout the country to almost universal acclaim almost perpetually since its smash hit arrival in 2011 at the National Theatre and on this, its third national tour it has lost none of its ability to raise a laugh.
It’s 1963, Brighton, and Francis Henshall a man always on the lookout for an opportunity, has managed to secure himself two jobs with two different guv’nors. One, Roscoe Crabbe is a local gangster of formidable reputation, the other, Stanley Stubbers, a posh twit of a petty criminal. Francis does his level best to keep the two from learning of the others existence. But, to complicate matters, Roscoe is actually twin sister Rachel in disguise, Roscoe having been ‘accidentally’ murdered by Rachel’s love Stanley Stubbers. Thrown into the mix are the Clenches; Charlie, who owes Roscoe money and his daughter Pauline, previously betrothed to Roscoe to hide his homosexuality, but who is now set to marry would-be actor Alan Dangle, book-keeper Dolly and a host of other misfits.
The success of the piece depends on two factors, the writing and the cast, and in both cases they are top-notch. The rapid-fire dialogue and the break-neck speed physical comedy are delivered with aplomb by the talented ensemble cast, and this is the perfect example of a true ensemble cast: whilst much of the action lies heavy on the shoulders of a few principal actors, this is a piece where everyone has their moment to shine.
Gavin Spokes is an amiable and energetic Francis who gets the crowd on his side from the off and Alicia Davies a spot-on Roscoe/Rachel. Edward Hancock is an hysterical Alan (previously Orlando) Dangle; the reason for the change of name explained by the fact that angry young men of the 60’s are not called Orlando, his over the top luvvi-ness as the would be thesp is met with peals of laughter at every entry. The rest of the cast too, are pitch-perfect. The whole piece is punctuated before, during and after by skiffle band The Craze who deliver period atmosphere with first rate musicianship and bags of charm.
It’s good to see that a piece of such quality is still packing them in and has lost none of its sparkle. Do yourself a favour and get a dose of theatrical Prozac at the King’s Theatre until Saturday.
Scottish actress Sabrina Carter is currently travelling the globe on the international tour of the smash hit One Man Two Guv’nors. Glasgow Theatre Blog managed to catch up with Sabrina from Sydney to find out about her journey from Scotland to the international stage.
Can we go back to your beginnings – tell us about your background and what first sparked your interest in theatre?
I came to theatre quite late. It all started properly when I was 16 and my friend wanted someone to go with her to an audition for a show called Once on this Island for Durham Youth Music Theatre. I went along reluctantly, and ended up getting the lead part of Timoune. After that I played many roles including Mary Magdelene in Jesus Christ Superstar, Dorothy in the Wizard of OZ and Florence in Chess. After this I started to listen to more and more shows and found a great love of theatre.
When did you decide to seriously pursue a theatrical career?
I was about 17 and was looking at university courses to study psychology, and literally two days before I was due to hand in my UCAS forms I decided to change it to study acting at a university. I knew I wanted to do a 3 year course with dissertation at the end, so I applied to many any decided upon Northumbria University at Newcastle.
Sabrina with Marti Pellow in Jekyll andHyde
You’ve recently been appearing in One Man Two Guv’nors: what is it like being involved in such a universally lauded production?
It’s fantastic! What an honour to be part of a piece that has such acclaim and lucky to be working for one of the best theatre companies in the world, The National Theatre is something that I’ve dreamed of all my life.
You’ve had a diverse range of roles in your career, which is the role you are most proud of?
That’s a hard question as I try not to take jobs or audition for shows that I’m not going to learn from. I think I’m most proud of The 39 Steps. Most of work up until this point in London had been musicals so to make the leap to plays can be very difficult. I managed it and feel so proud of the people I worked with but more importantly to get to play Pamela, Margaret, and Annabella , three very different roles.
You have played the coveted role of Elphaba in Wicked; tell us about your experience in the show.
Elphaba is undoubtedly one of the hardest female roles to play, not just the level of singing required but the roller coaster of emotions she goes through is massive! I still hold a massive place in my heart for her and of course my ensemble role of Pfanee. I made some amazing friends on that show and worked with some of the best creatives in the world.
Sabrina as Elphaba
My 1st performance of ‘Elphie’ was mid-show on a Saturday matinee. Alexia was literally being sick in the wings, which I was completely unaware of at the time, and I was doing the ‘Oz Dust ballroom’. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the stage management team stood side of stage, all looking at me and talking to each other. At the end of the dance I ran off to change when I was stopped, whilst the stage manager was chatting into her headset . Then it was like GO, GO, GO!!! A team of about four people hurried me downstairs to the wardrobe village ( undressing me as I was running) . I had sound teams changing my microphones, people changing my tights , people painting me green , it was manic! All the while I was trying to make sure my voice was ready for the marathon ahead. Approximately 8 minutes later I was dressed, micked and stood up stage right to enter with Dianne for ‘Emerald City’ … Then came the dreaded but thrilling ‘Defying Gravity’ …One of the most special and defining moments of my life. The highlight of the whole show was sharing it with the stunning Dianne Pilkington.
Jennifer Tierney, Sabrina Carter as Pfanee and Dianne Pilkington as Glinda
What advice would you give to someone sitting back at home in Scotland considering training as an actor?
If you need to ask yourself if it’s the right profession, Then it’s not the right business for you! DO IT! Train well, and immerse yourself into every piece of theatre/performance you can. I trained at the Royal Conservatoire previously known as RSAMD. The skills I learned were invaluable.
Sabrina as Nancy in Cameron Mackintosh’s production of Oliver!
What’s the best advice that you have received?
“Don’t forget people on the way up, as you’ll see them on the way down”
Tell us what you have been up to recently and what you’ve got planned for 2013 and beyond.
As I write this I’m in Sydney working on the international leg of One Man, Two Guv’nors, this finishes end of June , then who knows were the wind will take me . I do miss singing so maybe a wee return to musicals – basically whoever will have me!
Jeckyll and Hyde
A few quick questions…
What’s your favourite play/musical of all time?
Musical – Evita and Wicked (sorry that’s cringe!)
Play – Blithe Spirit
Who most inspires you?
Hard working non stagey actors
Your dream role?
It depends, in a musical – Eva Peron. I’ve just read Magdelena Alberto will be playing opposite my Mr Jekyll, Marti Pellow. She is fabulous, so I’ll look forward to seeing her in the role.
Originally this had a limited run at the National Theatre at the beginning of 2011. It’s now on a whistle-stop tour before going into The Adelphi in the West End.
Based on Carlo Goldoni’s 1746 comedy The Servant of Two Masters. The plot almost defies description. The safest way to describe it is to say that it’s a farce (not something that is oft seen in theatre these days), and I mean that in the theatrical way! It has been re-set to 1963 Brighton, and the key point is that Francis Henshall (James Corden), a failed skiffle player, finds himself working for two guvnors. One, Rachel Crabbe (Jemima Rooper), is disguised as her dead gangland twin, and, in her mop-top wig, bears an uncanny resemblance to Ringo Starr!!!
Francis’s other employer is a snooty toff, Stanley Stubbers, who not only killed Rachel’s brother but is also her secret lover. Neither boss is aware the other is in Brighton, as Francis bounces between them like a shuttlecock and, in the play’s most famous scene, serves them dinner simultaneously.
This isn’t exactly a stretch for Corden, being an amalgam of everything you’ve ever seen him in, but you can’t criticise that. He keeps the energy up throughout all of the slapstick and interacts brilliantly with the audience. While Corden is the star, the supporting cast are really strong.
Oliver Chris as Stanley is the epitome of over the top characatured public school arrogance. He has some completely insane lines to deliver which he does brilliantly wringing every bit of humour out of them with a glint in his eye;
Daniel Rigby (whom I last saw in his fantastic BAFTA award winning role as Eric Morecambe in Victoria Wood’s Eric & Ernie) as a would-be actor has fantastic, old-school luvvie theatrical mannerisms. He storms, minces and prances around the stage in turn, delivering his (also outrageously over-the-top lines) with maximum gusto.
Suzie Toase is pitch perfect as sex-pot Dolly;
and Jemima Rooper as the male-attired Rachel has a wonderful swagger. Adding to the joyous atmosphere, there’s even a skiffle group The Craze who play before, during and after the performance.
But what makes the show so enjoyable is its combination of visual and verbal comedy.
The dinner scene with the octogenarian waiter, magnificently played by Tom Edden, whose hand alarmingly quivers (Mrs. Overall-like) as he serves a tureen of soup, is fabulously funny.
The second half doesn’t quite match the first for hilarity, but as a whole it is laugh-out-loud funny and every single person on the stage is an absolute gem and that’s a rare thing to say, so if you’re in London anytime soon, I urge you to get a ticket.
Postscript – This is going on a national tour at the end of 2012 so you now have the chance to catch it at a theatre near you.