Having carried out research on Bottom as a working man and as an Elizabethan theatregoer I thought it was time to turn my attention to Bottom the amateur actor. To that end (and purely for research purposes, of course!), I thought I should get myself involved with another slice of theatre pie.
Though I may have worked my way through some 140+ productions over more years than I care to remember it’s one of those things in life where you’re only as accomplished as the next thing you’re doing. And the next thing I’m doing starts tonight at the Gatehouse Theatre in Highgate; none other than that international smash One Man Two Guvnors. As I’m sure you’ll be aware OMTG was a runaway success in both London and on Broadway and catapulted James Corden even further into the stratosphere. I saw it twice in London and rate it as the second funniest thing I’ve ever seen (sorry, but Noises Off still has it by a nose – but been there, done that ).
Tower Theatre are now putting on one of the earliest amateur productions of this riotous comedy in the country (i.e. in the UK – not in a field somewhere!). Based on the 18th century Venetian playwright Goldoni’s A Servant Of Two Masters, OMTG tells the story of Francis Henshall and his interaction with some of the less savoury elements of London and Brighton in the early 1960s. Using the structure of commedia dell’arte, it’s a fast and furious farce with some exquisite set pieces, plenty of verbal and visual humour and some very memorable characters …and if you like early 60s pop music and some eye catching design then you’re in for an extra treat.
Announcements about the RSC Dream project had only just been made when Tower’s autumn season of six productions was announced (they put on 18 shows a year). Although I knew that being cast as Bottom was a dream beyond expectations, I also knew I wanted to keep myself involved in some other capacity with the company that had put me forward for this massive opportunity. When I saw One Man Two Guvnors on the list I knew this was my preferred choice. The necessary commitments to the Dream project were still unclear at this point so I was wary of trying to overextend myself. However, as I knew I wanted to take on a directing role with the company at some stage this seemed like a perfect opportunity to offer my services as Assistant Director (a requirement to take on that role before being allowed to fly solo is a company rule). Fortunately the director Dan and I had worked together on a production of Joe Orton’s Loot a couple of years ago so we already had form.
The audition process was undertaken in late August and drew a competitive field; it’s definitely the sort of play people want to be in. As one of the roles was left unfilled I found myself taking on that mantle too. Great – best of both worlds, really; the possibility of contributing to the overall look and, hopefully, success of a production and then getting to put in an appearance in the finished article.
The cast contains a mixture of people I’ve worked with before – great to renew their acquaintance, am working with currently – Adam (Flute in the Dream project ) and I are playing son and father and new colleagues – always good to stimulate the acting muscles by working with fresh blood. The demanding central role is going to be a real tour de force for Mark (our Francis) but every character is really well drawn and fully realised; these guys are seriously good and inspire you to aim for your best. Yes of course there have been the inevitable stresses and strains attendant on putting together a show where its reputation precedes it, but I can genuinely say the experience has been a happy one. Rehearsals have been huge fun and even six weeks later there are parts that still crack us all up.
Yesterday was technical/dress rehearsal day. Those readers involved with amateur dramatics will know how stressful that generally is – and can probably appreciate why this week’s blog post is perhaps a little less polished. The day started at 11.00 am and finished exactly twelve hours later with us getting directors’ notes huddled in a corner of the downstairs pub (now, there’s an inducement) by which time all the diverse elements had come together to create a unified whole. The only missing component is the live audience – the part that gives theatre work its totally unique character -and the first lot will be through the door tonight. Ticket sales have been very good (and that’s not just advertising spin) so if you are planning to come along – and I hope you are – please click on the relevant links towards the bottom of this post to ensure a place.
Now, I know by now you’re probably thinking… “Hang on just a minute there! I come here to find out about A Midsummer Night’s Dream not another production altogether. This blog post is just a cheap advertising gimmick to sell tickets for something else.” Well, OK – slightly guilty as charged but just let me get this out of my system and then normal service will be resumed. Anyway, believe it or not there is actually a link between One Man Two Governors and the RSC Play For The Nation project. The author of the former (Richard Bean) and the director of the latter (Erica Whyman) are real life partners. Small world, isn’t it?
Hope to see you in Highgate!