New to perform: One Man, Two Guvnors

James Corden in The National Theatre production of One Man, Two Guvnors. Credit: Johan Persson

James Corden in The National Theatre production of One Man, Two Guvnors. Credit: Johan Persson

Why we love it

Comedy is the most fickle of genres – what’s funny to one generation so often leaves the next at best baffled, at worst squirming with embarrassment. So when a comedy lasts more than 250 years, you know it has to be something special.

Such is the case with Carlo Goldini’s Servant of Two Masters – written in 1743 and reinvented endlessly ever since. The latest – and most wildly successful – of these reimaginings is Richard Bean’s One Man, Two Guvnorsa hilarious new take on the classic, that draws its energy from the anarchic spirit and finely tuned character types of the original, and then runs amok with the story.

So what’s the play about? Not an easy one to answer since this is, essentially, chaos from beginning to end. The setting has been updated to the criminal underworld of Brighton in 1963, where unemployed skiffle player Francis Henshall finds himself working for the eponymous two masters. One is Rachel Crabbe, a woman disguised as her own deceased (male) twin, the other a toff named Stanley Stubbers who not only killed Crabbe’s twin, but is also her (secret) lover. As neither master knows the other is in Brighton, Francis has to juggle the demands of his two employers without either finding out – even when he has to serve them both dinner at the same time.

Phew.

Why we think you should do it

New ensemble farces don’t come along often these days, especially not ones written with the precision, energy and sheer infectious joyfulness of One Man, Two Guvnors. The script offers a large cast of comic actors the chance to shine in a variety of brilliant character roles.

The play was a huge hit when it debuted at The National with James Corden in 2011, and has since enjoyed continued success in a long-running West End transfer and on national tours.

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Reviews

‘Comic perfection’
Daily Telegraph

“A triumph of visual and verbal comedy. One of the funniest productions in the National’s history”
The Guardian

‘Of all the feelgood shows in London, this is the funniest’
Sunday Times

‘The funniest show in the western world’
Daily Mail

 

To find our more about how your group can perform One Man, Two Guvnors, visit our website or call our licensing team on  020 7255 4301

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Now available to perform: This Was a Man

This Was a Man

The world premiere of This Was a Man at the Finborough Theatre in 2014

 

A genuine opportunity to be a part of theatre history is as rare as hens’ teeth, and it’s rarer still that you get the chance to salvage an almost unknown work from a figure as legendary as Noël Coward. But the release of This Was a Man for amateur performance tantalisingly offers just that.

This Was a Man is unlikely to ring any bells for even the most ardent theatre fan. Written in 1926 (during an especially productive period of Coward’s career that also included Hay Fever, Fallen Angels and The Vortex) This Was a Man was refused a license by the Lord Chamberlain, then empowered to censor any play produced in Britain. Consequently it went unperformed for nearly 90 years, only receiving its UK professional debut in 2014 at the Finborough Theatre. Quite why the Lord Chamberlain chose to censor This Was a Man but pass The Vortex, with all its drug taking and promiscuity, is something of a mystery. Perhaps the powers-that-were objected to Carol, the central, sexually confident woman at the heart of the play, or perhaps it was the frank, almost casual discussion of divorce that raised their heckles.

The world has of course changed a lot since the 1920s. Much of what shocked the Lord Chamberlain has become quite normal, and modern audiences are more likely to focus on the subtler, deeper strands of Coward’s work.

The story centres around painter Edward Churt and his wife Carol. Edward is aware that Carol is being unfaithful to him, but does little about it. Frustrated with her behaviour, Edward’s stuffy best friend Evelyn decides to take matters into his own hands.

Looked at from the vantage point of the 21st century, what comes out most strongly in this play – by no means perfect, but fascinating nonetheless – is the unhealable hurt and isolation that lingers in the hearts of these characters. As The Guardian put it, this play is a window onto ‘how unhappy and lost this postwar generation find themselves. Even as they down the cocktails, there is a sense in which they are all desperate to extricate themselves from the non-stop party as it becomes ever harder to keep their smiles screwed on tightly and their blasted hearts hidden from view’.

The release of This Was a Man offers the chance to rescue a neglected play with much to explore from the depths of obscurity, and to illuminate a small corner of the long shadow cast by British theatre censorship in the twentieth century. And what could be more heroic than that?

this was a man cover small

To find our more about how you can perform This Was a Man, visit our website or call our licensing team on  020 7255 4301

This Was a Man was published for the first time as a single volume by Samuel French in 2014, and is available to buy on our website.

Entering Arcadia: Licensing Manager Debbie Simmons on appearing in Stoppard

Arcadia

As a member of the licensing team here at Samuel French, it is my job to ensure that our customers have their licenses in place for their performances.

Last week however, it was my turn to tread the boards with Southside Players as I was lucky enough to be a part of the cast of a production of Arcadia by Tom Stoppard.

I knew that my amateur group intended Arcadia as its next production, and that we had permission from the principal agent to go ahead (something that had to be checked as we’re based in London, where special restrictions often apply). After reading the play I knew I had to audition for the part of Lady Croom and was lucky enough to get it! She has (in my opinion) some of the best lines in the play and I got the added benefit of getting to dress in Regency costume.

Debbie (far left) on stage in Arcadia

Debbie (far left) on stage in Arcadia

The play is set in both the Regency and modern era and is a fascinating mix of ideas. As we progressed through performance week, I was still discovering something new each and every time I saw it and I like to think I finally got to grips with the maths! It was a while since I last performed on stage and I found myself feeling a mixture of nerves and excitement before the performances, and much relief afterwards that I remembered all my lines. Saturday night was our last performance, followed immediately by the get-out and then an after show party (until 6am!), and a definite case of post-show blues, that I am slowly working my way out of.

Debbie meets Tom Stoppard

Debbie (far right) met Tom Stoppard on the set of Parade’s End

Tom Stoppard’s plays are amongst our most popular, and getting to perform in one I can see why. There is a sense of fun and wit to his writing as well as a characteristic intellectualism that makes them both fun to perform as well as to watch. Our performance run sold out and the feedback has been really positive, which was a great boost to our confidence. I realised afterwards how many new friends I had made during the experience and am looking forward to the three ‘reunion’ evenings out we have planned already.

To all the other societies who are performing shows at the moment, toi toi toi or break a leg! I hope you enjoy your run as much as I did.

Discover the full range of Tom Stoppard titles available to perform from Samuel French or read his latest play The Hard Problem, now playing at the National Theatre

Production photos by Kate Monro