Richard Bean on One Man, Two Guvnors

Richard Bean, writer of One Man, Two Guvnors. Image via The Times.

Richard Bean, writer of One Man, Two Guvnors. Image via The Times.

Next month the National Theatre’s critically-acclaimed comedy One Man, Two Guvnors arrives with us. Seen by more than one million people worldwide, Canterbury now has the chance to enjoy this laugh-out-loud smash hit.

In our previous blogpost the National Theatre’s Artistic Director Nicholas Hytner looked back at how it all began. Now we hear from the show’s writer, Richard Bean.


How did you adapt the play and why

I adapted a version of Don Boucicault’s London Assurance for National Theatre director Nick Hytner in 2010.  Nick described it as a juiced-up old play and our version was a fabulous success. When Nick was talking about adapting Carlo Goldini’s eighteenth century farce, The Servant Of Two Masters, I got the gig.

Can you tell me about your background and how you got into writing..

I started writing very late in life. I was born in Hull, studied psychology at Loughborough University and worked in industry as an occupational psychologist for fifteen years.  I had no particular interest in theatre.  Then at 35 I started doing stand-up comedy which was my first venture into writing.  For that kind of comedy everyone has to write their own material.  I lived with an actor for a while and that got me interested in theatre.

I was 42 when I wrote my first professionally produced play – it was produced by the National Theatre and the Royal Court. 42 was quite old for a first play. I then came to the NT Studio for three-month bursaries for a couple of years and found I could write plays quite quickly.  This was a great boost to me as I could become a full-time playwright. I wrote my second, third and fourth plays at the National Theatre.

Toast was my first play in 1999, and it was 10 years later that I wrote One Man, Two Guvnors.  The first few plays I wrote tended to be ‘hairy bloke plays’ about men at work – trawler men and factory workers and that kind of thing.  That was an early phase if you like.  Then there was my second phase.  They are what I call my ‘counter-intuitive plays’ .  Others have called them controversial plays.

My stand-up background has always meant that I’ve relied on my comedy to keep the audience interested even if I’m dealing with serious subjects.  Other writers, without naming names, might use poetry or sensationalism.  But I’ve always tended to use comedy or the odd funny moment to keep people interested in the plot – even with serious plays like The Big Fellah about the IRA in New York. I’ve written about 15 plays but I’ve only tried to write two out-and-out comedies in all that time.

Emma Barton as Dolly and Gavin Spokes as Francis Henshall in One Man, Two Guvnors at The Marlowe Theatre Canterbury in September 2014.

Emma Barton as Dolly and Gavin Spokes as Francis Henshall. Photo by Johan Persson.

One is my own farce called In The Club about an MEP in Brussels, in the European Union and the second is One Man, Two Guvnors. The stakes are so different when you write a farce. A lot of my plays are incorrectly described as comedies in my opinion. Just because they are funny, that doesn’t make it a comedy.

Farce is incredibly difficult. When I tried to write my first farce, In The Club, I remember sitting in the corner of my study crying – a grown man sobbing. I’m not proud of it. I just couldn’t make it work. It’s so difficult to make a farce work.  Every time someone leaves there has to be clear motivation and every time someone comes in there has to be clear motivation and the doors are so important. It’s unbelievably difficult plotting to do that kind of thing.  In The Club was moderately successful and so I gave myself five or six years off before I tried my next farce. One Man, Two Guvnors wasn’t that difficult to do the plotting as it had already been done by Carlo Goldini.

Why did you set it in Brighton during the 60s?

The credit for the  show should go to Nick Hytner.  It was his conception to do this old Italian Comedia dell’Arte museum piece as a funky 1960s beat band comedy with music hall turns.  If the book works – I don’t mind taking the credit for that. Skiffle was my idea – so I’ll take the credit for that.

The Craze, house band in One Man, Two Guvnors coming to The Marlowe Theatre Canterbury in September 2014.  Photo by Johan Persson.

The Craze, house band in One Man, Two Guvnors. Photo by Johan Persson.

I originally wanted to set the play during the second world war. I was hung up by the food.  In the first half, the central character of Frances is driven by hunger. No one in the 60s was that hungry – you could always get a slice of bread and butter. It was still food. Whereas in the war, people were hungry, and it would have been a drive. It could have been set in the blitz and it wouldn’t have been so good.  Well done Nick, you won that argument.

I don’t think anyone in the audience thinks – it’s 1963 – how can anyone be that hungry?  We get away with it.

Are you surprised by the play’s success?

Well, I can’t honestly say I’m surprised. I didn’t have any particular hopes for it anyway.  What has happened has been fabulous. When you write a play and want to get it on, you don’t think – will it be still on and will it go to Broadway. You think – will it survive the first or second night.

When we were in the rehearsal room Nick arranged two performances with audiences.  On the Thursday, we invited about 80 children into the rehearsal room. It was kind of alright, but not that good.  For some of Frances Henshall’s long surreal speeches, the kids didn’t get it at all. We did quite a lot of cuts, and had another school coming in the next day. We did those cuts and the show absolutely stormed it with those school kids. It made us a lot more confident to go into technical rehearsals the next week.

The first preview was such a knock-out, despite technical problems in the first week.  We guessed it would be a hit.

I’m looking forward to seeing this new version of One Man, Two Guvnors, and am particularly pleased that it is touring to so many cities around the UK and Ireland.


One Man, Two Guvnors is at The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury from Monday 29 September – Saturday 4 October.

If you’re interested in trying your hand at playwriting, our new term of writing workshops for all levels of experience starts this September.

Wrong ‘Un: A Suffragette’s Story

Ella Harris playing Annie Wilde in Red Ladder Theatre's production of Wrong 'Un.

Ella Harris playing Annie Wilde in Red Ladder Theatre’s production of Wrong ‘Un.

Our new season in The Marlowe Studio kicks off on Friday 12 September with Red Ladder Theatre Company’s Wrong ‘Un – a one-woman musical drama about the suffragette movement.

This year marks the centenary of the First World War, but landmark dates for the suffragette movement sit alongside this. Not wanting people to forget this history, and with recent prominent feminist conversations in the media (No More Page 3 and Everyday Sexism being two examples), it seems the perfect time for this story to come to the stage.

With 40 years of theatre promoting social change and global justice behind them, Red Ladder’s Artistic Director Rod Dixon talks us through the journey of this particular production, and their move into musical theatre.


Five years ago Boff Whalley (ex-lead singer with the band Chumbawamba) and I decided we wanted to make musical theatre which appealed to audiences who wouldn’t normally access theatre very easily or even willingly.

We made several shows featuring the band and Red Ladder actors; shows such as Sex & Docks and Rock n Roll which toured trades clubs and small theatres, and Big Society! a music hall comedy starring Phill Jupitus.

Unite the Union asked us if we could make them a show about the Suffragette movement which would be performed at Durham Miner’s Gala in 2013. The shows up until then had been expensive to make and tour and so we set ourselves a challenge – to make a one-woman musical with no musicians: an acapella musical. Boff had always wanted to write a show specifically for Ella Harris to perform as he had long admired her work.

The first draft of the play came in and Ella was worried that her character was portrayed as slightly crazy, and who was not afraid to break the law or face a prison sentence. The truth is, that when ordinary people feel the need to take direct action they are far from brave or unhinged – they are usually very frightened and are only taking desperate measures because of the need to force change.

Boff rewrote the piece showing Annie Wilde as much more vulnerable and real – in this way her character quickly forms a positive relationship with audiences who love her humour and her story.

It has come as quite a surprise to us that this little play has exceeded all expectations – and I am sure this is due to the attractive qualities of the character that Ella plays. We made the show more or less as a one-off for Durham in 2013. Fifteen months later it is still touring and it has received four and five star reviews in national and local newspapers and websites. Wrong ‘Un isn’t just a suffragette’s story – it is a story for all of us today.


Wrong ‘Un is at The Marlowe Studio, Canterbury on Friday 12 September and will be followed by a free post-show Q&A.

 

Tips for tackling the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

By Amy Jane Smith, Marketing Officer

Street performances during Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Photo via the Fringe Facebook.

Street performances during Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Photo via the Fringe Facebook.

As much as I love my job, there’s nothing quite like a week off work: turning on the out-of-office and escaping from it all. Except I didn’t quite get away from the world of theatre this time, because I headed up to the world’s largest arts festival: the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

As a theatre fan, the Fringe is one of my favourite places to be, not just for the shows but the whole atmosphere of it. There’s just no place like it.

This year there are 49497 performances of 3193 shows in 299 venues across Edinburgh. Those numbers encapsulate the epic scale of the festival, and could make for a potentially daunting first visit: where do you start?

Last week was my fourth Fringe trip, and while it’s still pretty exhausting (eight shows in one day being a personal record), I’ve learned how to make the most of the time – seeing a variety of shows without wearing myself out completely.

So, with that in mind, here’s some tips…

If you’re not going

Grace Savage in The Paper Birds' Blind. Photo by Richard Davenport. At Edinburgh Fringe Festival, then The Marlowe Studio on 15 and 16 October.

Grace Savage in The Paper Birds’ Blind. Photo by Richard Davenport.

It seems a bit of an odd one to start with but we just wanted to let you know, whether you’re at the festival or not, that Edinburgh will be making its way to Canterbury. In our 150-seat venue, The Marlowe Studio, we’ll be presenting the best of the festival.

The Paper Birds’ Blind, a one-woman show starring UK beat-boxing champion Grace Savage, will be here 15 and 16 October. Bridget Christie is currently selling out her new show but last year’s Edinburgh Comedy Award-winning A Bic For Her is with us on 30 September. New show Sara Pascoe VS History is currently receiving rave reviews and will be with us on 9 December. (Bridget and Sara are both mentioned in The Guardian’s list of unmissable stand-ups.)

So if any of these are on your list of shows to see at Edinburgh, save them for when you get home and see something else! (Alternatively if you won’t be around, definitely see them there.) To let the festival fun continue, our new Studio brochure comes out later this month but many of our shows are on sale now.

What to see

One of this year's highlights: Theatre Ad Infinitum's Light. Photo by Alex Brenner.

One of this year’s highlights: Theatre Ad Infinitum’s Light. Photo by Alex Brenner.

One of the joys of the Fringe is the variety of work presented. Seeing several shows in a day means you’re more able to try something new, so venture into genres that you wouldn’t usually.

In terms of choosing what to see, I pore over the Fringe brochure when it comes out – circling things that really appeal to me and then making a bit of a shortlist. Then in Edinburgh, the brochure is abandoned in favour of the Edinburgh Fringe app – with chronological listings for each genre.

Follow publications via social media for lists of what to see (eg from The Guardian’s Lyn Gardner) alongside reviews as they come in. Also search #EdFringe on Twitter to see what people are raving about.

If you do want some personal recommendations, I’ve written a blogpost on my top five must-see shows (out of the 26 we saw).

Plan but be flexible

A familiar site during Edinburgh Fringe Festival: many, many posters. Image via Huffington Post.

A familiar site during Edinburgh Fringe Festival: many, many posters. Image via Huffington Post.

If you really want to see something, book it. This is especially important at this stage of the festival when reviews and first awards are out. It’s also good to have a shortlist of things which you know you’d like to see, but I wouldn’t plan out every single day ahead of time.

Part of the fun is being flyered, talking to people about what they’ve seen and just being a bit spontaneous. One of the best things we saw was simply because we had some time and clicked the ‘nearby now’ section on the Edinburgh Fringe app.

Working to a budget

It’s easy to over-spend on shows, food and drink when you’re in the festival mood but it’s also easy to save money if you put some thought into it.

Too late for this year, but the first Monday and Tuesday of August most shows have 2 for 1 offers so this will save you a lot of money. Throughout the festival there is the Virgin UK Half Price Hut on The Mound. You can check the Edinburgh Fringe app and website to see which shows are on offer that day before heading down there.

There are also 825 free shows at the Fringe this year. There’s some really quality stuff out there, and you get the wonderful feeling of finding a hidden gem without paying a penny (except the optional but encouraged post-show donation).

Where to eat

There’s so many great places to eat, but one definite recommendation would be The Mosque Kitchen on the grounds of the Edinburgh Central Mosque – a two minute walk from Pleasance Dome. We had two different vegetable curries with rice for £4.50, which is a wonderfully ridiculous price for good food. Close by on Potterrow is The Potting Shed – lovely reasonably priced food served in a friendly and quirky setting.

For casual street food with good sharing options try The Assembly George Square Gardens.

What to take

People aren’t lying when they say it rains in Edinburgh. I don’t know why they would, but it really, really does. Even when the weather is nice, it’s changeable – so take an umbrella, a waterproof jacket, sensible shoes and then layers.

With hectic days it’s easy to eat at odd times or get hungry so take snacks with you to have on the go, and a water bottle to re-fill.

If your smart phones are as ridiculous, and your festival days as long, as ours – then take a charger out with you to charge at a venue or pub (as long as they don’t mind).

Getting around the city

Get inspired and/or delayed on Edinburgh's Royal Mile. Photo via Edinburgh Fringe Facebook.

Get inspired and/or delayed on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Photo via Edinburgh Fringe Facebook.

When planning a show, whether in advance or on the day, work out where you’re going and leave enough time. It sounds obvious but it’s easy to be over-ambitious when wanting to fit everything in, and the venues can be really spread out across this incredibly hilly city. It’s easy to be fooled too by venues with multiple sites, so do double check this.

It’s only £3.50 for a day ticket on the bus, so that’s worth doing if you’ll be staying out of town and getting across the city during the day. Without getting to know local bus timetables, the maps app on any smart phone will work out the best route for you.

And if you do need to get somewhere fast, do not walk down the Royal Mile…

Seeing Edinburgh

Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh. Image via Visit Scotland.

Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh. Image via Visit Scotland.

You’ll naturally see a lot of the city just through getting to shows, but if you can – take some time to visit Arthurt’s Seat. I’ve never climbed it (we were a tad unprepared), but we did get to spend some time there. The views, even from nearby rocks, are stunning – taking in the whole city and a seaview too.

Also the random pubs with music coming from inside – check them out. A brilliant night was had last year in a pub full of locals and a different atmosphere – reminding us we were in fact in bonny Scotland, not just a random theatrical utopia!


What have you seen at the Edinburgh Fringe this year? Let us know any recommendations or tips that you have!

A day in the life of… Will Millar, Deputy Stage Door Keeper

Will Millar, Deputy Stage Door Keeper at The Marlowe Theatre. Photo by Tim Stubbings.

Will Millar, Deputy Stage Door Keeper. Photo by Tim Stubbings.

In this series we’re taking you behind the scenes at The Marlowe to find out about our staff. Our previous colleagues under the spotlight have been Creative Projects Officer Andrew Dawson and Arts Marketing Trainee Nadia Newstead. Now, it’s the turn of Deputy Stage Door Keeper Will Millar.

How long have you been working at The Marlowe Theatre?

It’ll be exactly 3 years on 14 September! I started a few weeks before we officially opened; it was still a bit of a building site then.

What does a typical day for you look like?

Stage Door is open before everyone arrives and we close after everyone has left. For a 7am start, I wake up at 5.30am to be at work for 6.50am. The first hour is spent doing the previous day’s paperwork, having a cup of tea and a sing-song with the housekeepers. If it’s a day when a show is ‘getting in’ then it is very busy with cast, crew, postmen and visitors. It’s not a job for those who get flustered under pressure.

There are two full-time staff on Stage Door; Natalie and myself – one of us does a week of ‘earlies’ while the other does the ‘lates’. Week-long shows always ‘get out’ after the show on Saturday – so it’s not uncommon for Stage Door to be here until 5am on the Sunday morning. We couldn’t stay awake without copious amounts of junk food and lots of sugar!

What inspired you to work in theatre?

It was actually quite convoluted. My first dabble at it was aged 11 when I was stage crew for a school production – a post I was urged to fill as I was a very sensible child! Fast-forward four years when a friend of mine mentioned that they built sets at one of the local theatres on Monday and Tuesday evenings. Ever the tag-along, I showed up (aged 15) with a toolbox in hand and a very timid voice.

Within 6 months I was at the theatre every evening building sets, designing lighting plots, running shows – just about everything you can think of. I would literally run from school to the theatre and head home about 11pm to sleep then do it all again the next day. You soon learn how to shout above power tools.

What are your first memories of theatre?

I remember seeing a touring production of Alice In Wonderland at my school when I was 6. I had to be taken out halfway through because I cried when the Cheshire Cat lost his smile. The first professional show I saw was Riverdance at the Hammersmith Apollo in 1996. It remains one of my favourite shows.

What is the best part of your job?

When cast and crew from previous shows come back with different shows. It’s like seeing old friends. There are several Company Managers whom I keep in touch with outside of work.

Outside of work I…

Can you guess? I run my own theatre company – ‘Back of House Theatre Company’ who have hosted two shows in The Marlowe Studio: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (September 2013) and Metamorphosis (April 2014).

I’m happy to say that it has gone from strength to strength and we are currently putting together our new show Horror Box. We’ve written and created something that is the closest thing to a horror film in live theatre form. We’ve been very lucky to receive a Grant for the Arts from Arts Council England for this particular production, something that is not easy to come by. It’s a clear indication that the Arts Council are recognising our work and supporting us on our journey.

I’m also an avid magician, musician and aviator – I’m currently working towards my private pilot’s licence.

Favourite production you’ve seen at The Marlowe?

I was dreading this question! There are so many that have been exceptional. If I had to choose one, it would be Some Like It Hip Hop because I went in expecting to be totally out of place (I know as much about dance as Mr Kipling knows about submarines) when in fact I was completely taken in by the story and the staging that I had goose bumps for the majority of the show.

And the production you’re most looking forward to?

Can I say Horror Box? If not, then it has to be An Evening with Roger Moore – the man is a legend!

Any advice for someone looking to work in theatre, or produce their own work?

In regards to producing your own work, if you have a story to tell that you believe in and want to share its message then that is the biggest driver. It gets to a point where you have to tell it because not doing so would be detrimental to your development as a person. I very much believe in the saying “love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life”.

I’m very fortunate to be able to work in the theatre world because periods where I haven’t been able to work in it, have been like losing a part of myself. Local amateur theatres are the backbone of your journey – learn from the ground up. I learnt so many skills from being thrown in at the deep end. It’s a long journey but that isn’t a negative; there’s only one way to eat an elephant – a bite at a time.

Modern Heresies: continuing our celebration of Christopher Marlowe’s 450th anniversary

Modern Heresies rehearsal.

Members of The Marlowe People’s Company rehearsing for Modern Heresies.

This year marks 450 years since the birth of Christopher Marlowe, our theatre’s namesake and one of England’s greatest playwrights.

Earlier this year we held Marlowe450, with stagings of Faustus, The Massacre At Paris and The Jew Of Malta from Fourth Monkey Theatre Company alongside accompanying talks from leading authors. This weekend we continue to celebrate and think about Marlowe’s life in Modern Heresies.

This mini-festival of new writing features six plays written by our participants and performed as rehearsed readings by The Marlowe Senior and People’s Companies.

Directing the plays will be Paul Ainsworth and Grace Irvine, recent graduates of the University of Kent’s MDrama programme. They have both worked with us previously, assistant directing on National Theatre Connections and The Garden Of England respectively. Paul talks us through the experience of working on the project.


2014 has marked the 450th anniversary of the birth of Christopher Marlowe, allowing us to celebrate his important contribution to early English theatre. Although today he is rightly considered as writing some of the most important plays of the period, to many of his contemporaries Marlowe was seen as a dangerous heretic with radical ideas.

It is this aspect of the man that has inspired the current new writing project taking place in The Marlowe Studio, Modern Heresies, asking writers to explore what is considered heretical or radical today.

The six plays that have been selected certainly tackle the concept of Modern Heresies in a variety of creative ways. Some of the writers have focused on a character that challenges the status quo, or have introduced a plot point that could be seen as radical for a modern audience. Other writers have tried to marry the old and the new to create a more fantastical world. What has struck me is how varied the individual writing styles are and how they have managed to use the term Modern Heresies as a springboard for their ideas.

For myself as a director the most rewarding part of the process has been working on three new plays that have never been performed before. Rarely do you get the opportunity to work on a piece of new writing – so getting three to work on at once is extremely exciting.

The writers have been very involved throughout the process attending rehearsals with the cast. The dynamic of having writer, director and actor in the room is a fantastically creative one and all three groups are able to gain a lot from the experience.

An actor may deliver a line in a particular way, which inspires the writer to edit the script, or a writer may reveal something about a character giving the director a greater insight into the text. It’s a process that I have thoroughly enjoyed.

I am so thankful to the writers, for approaching the project with such an open mind and a willingness to get involved, and to the cast for their dedication and patience.


Modern Heresies will take place at The Marlowe Studio on Friday 1 and Saturday 2 August at 8pm. Our new term of acting and writing workshops begins week commencing Monday 22 September. Click here to find out more.

Nicholas Hytner on One Man, Two Guvnors

Nicholas Hytner on One Man, Two Guvnors. Image: Getty Images (Cindy Ord) via Blouin.

Image: Getty Images (Cindy Ord) via Blouin

This September the National Theatre return to us with One Man, Two Guvnors. Seen by more than one million people worldwide, the show is a glorious celebration of British comedy. The National’s Artistic Director, and director of this production, Nicholas Hytner looks back at how it all began.


In 2011, we had a very grim repertoire – it was serious with no laughs. This seemed like a bad idea, particularly during the summer months.

It’s always been the National Theatre’s aspiration, and certainly mine, to have a repertoire that covers the whole spectrum of what the theatre can offer and something purely entertaining seemed like a necessity. None of my colleagues were up for looking for something purely entertaining and comic and I rather enjoy doing that kind of thing so I volunteered myself for that slot.

I remembered an old play called The Servant of Two Masters by the Italian commedia dell’arte playwright Carlo Goldoni. The reason I knew the play so well was that I played Truffaldino (the character who eventually turned into Francis Henshall) at school.

I was very bad. I can remember being required to somersault because the director of the school production wanted it done in classic commedia style.  He was determined that the harlequin should be acrobatic and I was a very fat, clumsy child and teenager and absolutely couldn’t cartwheel or somersault. I nevertheless had to, and these elaborate arthritic somersaults were part of a performance which had its moments but was essentially not very good and not very funny.

So I read the play again and thought it had funny bones but was not in any of the faithful translations funny enough.  I also thought that the way to bring it alive was to get James Corden to play the central role. James had been in The History Boys at the National and in Gavin and Stacey, but had fallen out of favour and was lost in TV quiz show land. James agreed to be in it and I asked the playwright Richard Bean to make a version because I knew that one thing that would not interest me was a production in the old eighteenth century Italian commedia dell’arte style.

I had this hunch that the traditions of low Italian comedy were essentially the same traditions of low English comedy. I think that probably pratfalls and low physical comedy about the traditional comic subjects of greed, money and sex are global.  They spring spontaneously from what the human race finds funny. There is no tradition, particularly no low tradition, which doesn’t find lust, drunkenness and greed funny.

So I asked Richard Bean to transfer it from eighteenth century Venice to post-war Brighton. I reckoned Brighton and Venice, as far as this play was concerned, were interchangeable. A lot of the Italian comedies take place in Venice which was a very louche city – a city you went to for a dirty weekend.  It has been a party city longer than any other European city. It ceased to be an influential and significant centre for European trade in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and became a tourist or carnival city.

Gavin Spokes as Francis Henshall and Emma Barton as Dolly in One Man, Two Guvnors. Photo by Johan Persson.

Gavin Spokes as Francis Henshall and Emma Barton as Dolly in One Man, Two Guvnors. Photo by Johan Persson.

In The Servant of Two Masters, the protagonists escape from Turin, the big city, and hole up in Venice where inevitably funny and complicated things happen to them. Brighton’s relationship to London is much the same. It’s a place with lots of hotels, far enough away from London that you might easily disappear into it if you are on the run from the law. It’s a place with seedy picture comic post-cards.

Brighton felt right, as did various English comic traditions like variety, end-of the pier farce, Ealing comedy and Carry On films. They all felt like they were coming from the same place. So I floated all these ideas to Richard Bean. I’m not quite sure if we were talking 1940’s Brighton, 50’s Brighton or 60’s Brighton. He eventually alighted upon the early 60’s Brighton – around the time that sex was invented…according to the Philip Larkin poem. 1963 was the year he suggested – between the Lady Chatterley trial and the first Beatles LP.

And right from the first draft it felt like it would work brilliantly. We had various readings. The first reading was quite sketchy, but lots of ideas from the very first reading ended up in the play. They came from a group of very funny actors sitting around a table reading and discussing the text and working out what to do with an ancient waiter (Alfie) who behaves like a rubber ball.

Alfie was there in Richard’s first draft, and everything else that happens in the play’s climactic first act where Frances has to serve dinner to both his masters emerged in that first workshop reading. The other thing that emerged was that we needed someone to take care of the physical comedy and that was never going to be me. It’s not my area of expertise. I can’t even turn a somersault. So I asked Cal McCrystal, who is a great master of physical comedy to come on board and help come up with the great physical routines in the play.

I was also able to give the designer Mark Thompson a very clear brief – the style of the show was going to be out of variety and end-of-the pier comedy.

Even though the production was originally created around James Corden, there have now been several brilliant casts who have made the play their own – this now includes Gavin Spokes and our touring company.


One Man, Two Guvnors is at The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury from Monday 29 September – Saturday 4 October. A limited number of discounted Discovery Tickets are available for anyone aged 16-26 years or full-time students (over 16 years).

Goodbye from our Arts Marketing Trainee, Nadia Newstead

The Marlowe Theatre's Arts Marketing Trainee Nadia Newstead

Arts Marketing Trainee Nadia Newstead

Each year at The Marlowe we take on three trainees in Arts Marketing, Arts Management and Technical Management. These are full-time paid positions where you become fully integrated in the teams – learning on the job and taking on your own responsibilities over the year.

Our current trainees are coming towards the end of their contracts, and our colleague Nadia, Arts Marketing Trainee, is leaving in just two weeks time. We’re so sad to see her go but also thrilled for her to be taking up the position of Marketing Assistant at Soho Theatre. She takes us through her experiences as a trainee ahead of saying her goodbyes…


How do you distil 10 months of your life into just a few hundred words? It’s impossible, no? Well I’ll do my best for you.

Let’s start at the beginning. When I got the call to say that I had got the job of Arts Marketing Trainee at The Marlowe I was nothing less than thrilled. It was exactly what I wanted to do and I knew it would give me that elusive one year’s experience needed to secure a permanent job in theatre administration, which is what I had been trying to achieve since graduating, without much success.

What I didn’t know was it would give me was the confidence and skills to plan and execute my own marketing campaigns, the chance to be a valued member of a dynamic and hard-working team, and some of the best laughs of my life.

I know that at the end of an experience it’s easy to see everything with rose-tinted glasses – to say that everything has been amazing and that it’s hard to pick a stand-out moment so I will try to be realistic.

There have been days where my stress levels have been higher than I would have liked, times where I have disagreed with colleagues and moments where I have wanted to go out to the yard and dance my frustration out, but there has never been a day where I have not wanted to come to work, not even when it’s been a 4.30am start or a Sunday.

Nadia adjusting costumes during a photo shoot for our pantomime Aladdin.

Adjusting costumes during a photo shoot for our pantomime Aladdin.

I have learnt about marketing different genres of shows, different marketing techniques – both traditional (posters around town) and modern (harnessing the power of social media), the importance of brand, press relations, planning and executing external events, how to lift many, many boxes, how to drive a van (!), how to work in a team and across departments, how to be flexible in the way that I work and how to get the job done.

The traineeship is brilliant because it gives you the chance to work alongside professionals and be part of a functioning theatre for a whole year; you can experience the successes and failures with your team – you can actually get to know your team properly!

This isn’t an internship, or at least not in the way that we have come to understand internships, as one, three or six month unpaid stints where you hope against hope for a job at the end. This is a paid position, where you are given basic tasks at the beginning but build up to running your own projects.

On my first day I was tasked with creating an inventory of all the print in the building. Now, I manage all incoming print and its distribution across the region, I send all the emails to our 30,000 strong database, I’ve managed two show campaigns, I’ve run external events, I’ve been the monster at Canterbury Children’s Festival (if you met Big Blue, that was me) and the back end of the pantomime cow!

Each week I have learnt something different about myself and theatre marketing.  I’ve been allowed to make mistakes and see how to rectify them. I can honestly say that I have laughed every day – even the bad ones. The Marlowe Theatre is one of the largest and best regional theatres in the country, where better to learn about theatre marketing?

I know that the scheme works because I am moving on to be Marketing Assistant at Soho Theatre in London. Not only do I have that elusive one year’s experience, I have new skills, great memories and fantastic colleagues and friends.

So apply, you know you want to.


Applications for our Arts Marketing, Arts Management and Technical Management traineeships close on Tuesday 22 July. Click here for more information on these positions.