WIN + INTERVIEW: One Man Two Guvnors, Sunderland Empire

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It’s been billed as the “funniest show on the planet”, but will One Man Two Guvnors tickle Wearside’s ribs? Katy Wheeler spoke to leading lady Emma Barton to find out.

Posh adult panto meets Carry On film” – that’s how Emma Barton would sum up One Man Two Guvnors, a laugh-out-loud caper that blends satire with slapstick.

The National Theatre production has been taking the world’s stages by storm, where it’s been seen by one million people, and now it’s heading to Wearside.

It tells the story Francis Henshall who, fired from his skiffle band, becomes minder to Roscoe Crabbe. But Roscoe is really Rachel, posing as her own dead brother – who’s been killed by her boyfriend Stanley Stubbers.

Francis spots the chance of an extra meal ticket and takes a job with one Stanley Stubbers – but to prevent discovery, he must keep his two guvnors apart.

It sounds nonsensical and farcical, but that’s all part of its charm.

Emma, who plays feminist book-keeper Dolly, explains: “It’s been reviewed as the ‘funniest show on the planet’. It’s a piece of theatre that encourages people who haven’t been to the theatre since they were a kid going to panto to come back and realise why they love it.

“It’s like a cross between a posh adult panto with a Carry On film. It’s very fast, it’s very funny, with a strong in house band. You won’t have seen anything else like it.”

Emma, who’s well-known for her role as Honey Mitchell in Eastenders, took her seat in the audience during the award-winning comedy’s West End run – from then on she was hooked.

“I went to the Haymarket to see it. And one, I sat there thinking I had to be in this play, and, two, I was thinking I need to book tickets tomorrow so I can come and see it again. I loved it that much.

“When I got the call to appear on this tour, I was beside myself, it’s the best production to be in.”

She takes to the stage on the tour alongside Gavin Spokes who takes on the central role of Francis Henshall, a role he played in the West End, with Norman Pace as Charlie Clench and Jasmyn Banks as Pauline Clench.

Emma says the show’s been getting a great response around the country.

“You get great comments, you’ll be walking to your car or to your digs after a show, and you’ll overhear people talking about it, not realising you’re there.

“There’s a scene in the first act, which I’m not in, and you’re sat in your dressing room listening to the laughter on the tannoy. It’s a great pick me up if ever you’re feeling down.”

The production is based on Richard Bean’s version of Carlo Goldoni’s classic Italian comedy, The Servant of Two Masters and has songs by Grant Olding, performed by The Craze.

Emma said: “I think the National Theatre has a bit of a stigma attached to it as people think it just does serious productions, but this shows that it can do comedy.

“We’re very fortunate in that Richard Bean, the playwright, has done all the hard work for us. You have to do comedy with truth and honesty, you can’t just play it for laughs.

“But we do play up, especially Francis, he has room to do that.

“Audience participation is so much a part of it, so you can have fun with that. The audience are like an extra member of the company.”

As well as spoken jokes, the show is filled with physical comedy.

“People say it’s exhausting to watch,” said Emma. “Francis certainly does a lot of throwing himself around about a bit. I do a fair bit of throwing myself on the floor too – I have the bruises to prove it. But it’s two and a half hours of dressing up and being daft, it’s not heart surgery, so you don’t mind the bruises.”

Emma played the role of Honey in BBC soap Eastenders for three years and has enjoyed juggling a TV career with treading the boards in roles such as Roxie Hart in Chicago.

Speaking about her time as Honey, she said: “She was a very different female to the other Walford women who are very strong, but it was nice to play something different. When I went back this year I was a bit scared, but it was like putting on an old pair of slippers. If I carry on a career with the variety I’ve had so far, I’ll die a happy woman.”

*One Man Two Guvnors is at Sunderland Empire from January 20-24. Tickets are available in person at the Box Office from £10 or from £11.90 from the Ticket Centre on 0844 871 3022 or online at www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland.

We’ve teamed up with Sunderland Empire to give away a pair of tickets for One Man Two Guvnors for opening night on January 20.

To be in with a chance of winning, answer this question: who did Emma Barton play in Eastenders?

A)Honey

B)Kat

C)Lucy

Email your answer and contact details to Katy.Wheeler@jpress.co.uk.

Closing date: January 1.