Our autumn tour is a co-production with Blackwood Miners’ Institute and RCT Theatres. When we were granted the rights to produce One Man, Two Guvnors, to say we were excited is an understatement!
One Man, Two Guvnors is the smash hit comedy by Richard Bean based on The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni. It is recognised as a modern classic and has proven popular with audiences in London, on Broadway and across the UK. To be given the chance to tour the show around Wales is a privilege.
The directional challenges are many and certainly push the creative team to ‘think outside of the box’. The original cast numbered over a dozen plus a Skiffle Band of five. Our initial challenge was to work with a cast of nine. With some clever doubling and finding a talented cast of actors who are also highly competent musicians/singers, we met this challenge and embarked on rehearsals with gusto!
Comedy is difficult; farce is harder. Actors have to search for the farcical elements in the text and fully understand how their dialogue contributes to the ‘nonsense’ of the plot structure. A simple line about a misplaced letter, for example, can add to a gag or be the punchline to an intricate ‘set piece’ that has been building over several scenes. When directing farce, it is important to fully understand how all these set pieces, visual gags, terrific one-liners and slapstick link together in order to ‘pay off’. It is important to encourage the actors not to dwell on subtext and detailed backstory in rehearsal. Instead they should be encouraged to find the fun, highlight the farce and make sense of the ridiculous. The joy of a farce is its construction rather than its plot and how the characters play out the many absurd scenarios.
The central character of Francis the ‘one man’ who finds himself with ‘two guvnors’ is the cause of the mayhem and his duplicity, initially born out of his necessity to find food, catapults the rest of the characters into a whirl of mistaken identity, disguise, misunderstanding and hysteria. The rest of the dramatis personae is made up of a rich collection of individual characters that are inspired by the archetypes found in Commedia dell’arte. All fun, all a treat to watch.
Initial rehearsals have been split to allow for the learning of the music under the direction of or Musical Director, Rob Thorne Jnr. The Skiffle Band is a major feature of the show and I am delighted that we have been able to create the band from our cast. Our actors are, in addition to learning lines, learning musical accompaniment, harmonies and, in some cases, new instruments! Then they have the rehearsals exploring physical comedy, Commedia characters types, stage combat, choreography and stunts! Easy!
It is amazing how technical farce can be. One Man, Two Guvnors is no exception. A brief moment on stage often has hours of rehearsals dedicated to it and this always pays off when the audience response is a collective belly laugh.
Black RAT has a reputation of touring quality comedy productions, taking large-scale shows to smaller venues that wouldn’t normally receive such work. We are incredibly proud of the part we have played in developing audiences all over Wales. One Man, Two Guvnors is already proving to be a show that we can be proud of. We move onto the set next week and I cannot wait to see the additional comedic business we will find as the show starts to take its final shape.
When directing a piece that has a definite style, it is important to remain true to the conventions inherent in that genre. Once your cast has a grasp of those conventions and the whole company is working in a common vein – the fun can commence.
We filmed the promotional video for the show at Barry Island Pleasure Park and on the beach at Barry seafront! It was the first time that many of the cast met and watching them interact on the bumper cars, waltzers, fun house and log flume made us realise what a terrific bunch we have. Talented, hard-working and great fun! Not to mention the production team who built sand-castles, sourced a bucket load of funfair food and wrestled with a hungry donkey! (Watch the trailer for evidence of the donkey!)
One Man, Two Guvnors is a joy to work on. Our set, designed by Anna-Marie Hainsworth, will immediately transport the audience to Brighton in 1963. The Skiffle Band kick starts the audience with original songs by Grant Olding (written for the original National Theatre production) and we’re off!
Looking forward to seeing you all along the way.
BLACKWOOD MINERS’ INSTITUTE
MAESTEG TOWN HALL
NEUADD DWYFOR, PWLLHELI
THEATR STIWT, WREXHAM
ABERYSTWYTH ARTS CENTRE
BOROUGH THEATRE, ABERGAVENNY
PONTARDAWE ARTS CENTRE
18 October 1.00pm
THE COLISEUM, ABERDARE
03000 040 444
THE LYRIC, CARMARTHEN
THE PARK & DARE
03000 040 444
CONGRESS THEATRE, CWMBRAN
GRAND PAVILION, PORTHCAWL
THEATR MWLDAN, CARDIGAN
THE HAFREN, NEWTOWN
THEATR BRYCHEINIOG, BRECON
4 November 7.45pm
ROYAL WELSH COLLEGE OF MUSIC & DRAMA
02920 391 391