An Interview with Emma Barton from Richard Bean’s ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’

By November 3, 2014

Theatre & Dance. Leeds.

[Image, National Theatre]


Tomorrow, the National Theatre’s smash comedy ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ comes to Leeds Grand Theatre for a short run of 4 days. Early last week, I caught up with actress Emma Barton to talk about the show, her views on drama education and ponder northern accents…


TSOTA: So where are you at the moment?
EB: In Cornwall – which would be lovely except the weather isn’t great!


TSOTA: I can’t promise it’s going to be any better when you come up north, I’m afraid…
No, I love Leeds! I was there a few years ago when I did Annie at the Playhouse. The people are so lovely, the shopping is great… and I play a northerner in this production, so it’ll be great to see how the audience react.


TSOTA: Speaking of the show, I’ve had a look on the website and the synopsis is a little confusing… Can you sum it up for me?
I don’t want to give too much away – but I’d describe it as fast, frantic and funny. I always say it’s a cross between an adult pantomime and a Carry-On film. The writing is absolutely brilliant. Really, the audience should bring a packet of tissues because they’ll be laughing so much. It’s set in the 1950s so it’s a bit like an end-of-the-pier show, with original music and a band with four very good-looking, very talented boys. There is honestly nothing to dislike. If you want to have a laugh, this is the show for you!


TSOTA: How did you come across the show?
I went to see it when [Eastenders co-star] Kelly Shirley was playing Pauline. As soon as I left, I wanted to go back and see it again. Actually, I was watching it thinking ‘this would be the best job ever’ and wishing I’d been seen for the job – then my agent got in touch to say that they were booking the tour, so I went to audition. The next day I got the phone call saying I’d got the part, and I was so pleased because sometimes when you want something so badly you can put yourself under a lot of pressure to get it right and it can go terribly wrong!


TSOTA: What can you tell me about the character you play?
Dolly is the general dog’s body of Charlie, another main character. Even though she’s incredibly funny, she is actually one of the straightest characters of the show. She’s a strong, feminist northerner – which is a dream part to play for a southerner – and she’s quite a different character for me to play, which I like.


TSOTA: In what way is she different?
: I quite often get given funny characters – even Honey [Mitchell, from Eastenders] was quite comical – but to play such a straight comedic part is great. I get some cracking one liners and she is such a strong female character. I’m quite used to playing ditsy funny characters, like Honey, but Dolly is definitely not ditsy. The best thing about being an actor is that you are constantly challenging yourself and tackling new roles, and this part is no different.


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[Image, National Theatre]


TSOTA: Did you have to do any homework to prepare for the role?
: Not really. The show has been running for quite a long time, so the director knew what he wanted. You just bring your own stamp to the character. I did have to do some homework on the Yorkshire accent to get that right, though!


TSOTA: And how’s that going?
: Well everyone from Yorkshire so far who has seen it says it’s bob on!


TSOTA: It’s a long stretch for a tour to run between May and March. How do you manage to keep the show fresh every night?
: The piece itself is brilliantly written and it’s so funny that it keeps itself fresh, really. Also, because there is audience participation there are always surprises; in fact, we call the audience our ‘final cast member’ because of the amount of audience interaction. Different regions see it so differently and react differently, which I love. Even though it’s great to be in London, it’s great to get out and meet different audiences and let the rest of the country see the show too.


TSOTA: So your acting career includes work from stage and screen. In your heart of hearts, which do you prefer?
: It’s difficult. Overall, I think I prefer stage, but there are such cracking pieces on the television that I’d love to be in – things like Happy Valley, which I love at the moment. When you’re doing theatre, television looks appealing – but when you’re doing television, you realise that there’s nothing quite like the live aspect of theatre. You get to hear the audience laugh – and that’s great. In the end though, actors are never settled – you’re always craving the next hit, the next buzz, not knowing what you’re going to be doing.


TSOTA: I’m interested in what you think about the cuts in the arts at the moment, especially in education. Do you have any advice for students with acting aspirations?
: It’s frustrating. I think it’s so important to continue to encourage people to go and see theatre because it’s such good escapism, such a great craft to learn. We’ve had quite a few school parties in and they love it! School can be quite tough and sometimes boring, and theatre is such a lovely way of expressing yourself, through music or acting. We should really continue to encourage it. In terms of advice, I’d say it’s challenging, but you just have to keep going. Work hard and know your craft.


TSOTA: Finally – can you sum up One Man Two Guvnors in 10 words or less?
Fast, frantic, funny, entertaining, slapstick, musical, intelligent = funniest show on the planet.


TSOTA: Technically that’s 12 words – but I’ll let you off. Thanks!

Nicki Davy

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[Image, National Theatre]


One Man Two Guvnors is at the Leeds Grand Theatre from the 4th – 8th November 2014. 

To book your tickets to see the show visit:

For more information on the show, visit


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