In the first entry from the One Man, Two Guvnors rehearsal diary, the cast were running lines and blocking scenes with Director Nicholas Hytner and Associate Director Cal McCrystal, with writer Richard Bean making edits along the way. By weeks four and five of rehearsals, the action is in full swing, including some hilarious improvisation sessions that help create the characters’ back story.
Weeks Four and Five
Once Nick has worked through each scene in the play in detail, he starts back on scene one again, adding another layer of detail to the performances and the staging. Sometimes decisions made in later scenes have a knock-on effect to the logic of earlier scenes and changes are made. Richard Bean starts delivering larger rewrites and we all abandon our original scripts, which are now full of crossed-out lines and hand-written additions, in favour of an updated version.
A timeline appears along the back wall of the rehearsal room listing the events – both onstage and off – that happen during the twelve hours that is the play is set in. Nick also encourages all the actors to think about key things that occur in their characters’ lives before the time frame of the play starts (their ‘ back-story’); how old they are, where they were born, how long have they known the other characters in the play and how did they meet.
We spend an afternoon in rehearsal ‘ hot-seating’ where Nick interviews the actors in character about how they feel about the other characters in the play and the events that occur. This leads to improvisations of the key events; such as the moment Alan asked Charlie for his daughter Pauline’s hand in marriage; and Francis and Rachel’s car journey to Brighton. With a cast of comedy actors, the improvisations are very funny.
This article was written by Adam Penford and first appeared in National Theatre’s Education background pack for One Man, Two Guvnors.
The National Theatre’s production of One Man, Two Guvnors is playing at Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse from 17 May to 22 June.