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East end meets west end in comedy hit

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Things are usually far from rosy on Albert Square. Menacing words are hissed through gritted teeth, spats erupt spontaneously in the Queen Vic, and then of course there’s the odd murder plot every now and again.

It’s understandable, then, that three Eastenders alumni – Emma Barton, Jasmyn Banks and Shaun Williamson – have swapped drama in the street for chuckles on the stage with the live tour of the award-winning comedy One Man, Two Guvnors.

The soap opera takeover wasn’t planned, but each member of the Walford mafia is proving there’s a lot more to them than the serious stuff we’ve seen them do on our small screens.


“It’s funny, we call ourselves ‘One Man, Two Guvnors and three Eastenders’,” Emma told me as she, Jasmyn and I sat together in Glasgow’s Kings Theatre, just a few hours before they were due on stage for another roof-raising performance.

“None of us ever worked together on screen, but we have all these mutual friends. It’s just such a coincidence.”

“We talk about Eastenders a little bit,” added Jasmyn who, having departed her role as Alice Branning last year is the most recent graduate of the soap, “but we all mainly bonded over this show.”

While it involves a complex plot of mistaken identity, a web of lies and murder threats, One Man Two Guvnors is actually a pretty far cry from Eastenders.

“The stage show, which shot to success in the James Cordon-fronted production by the National Theatre in 2011, has inspired enormous adulation among audiences in the west end and on Broadway, and is now spreading the joy throughout the UK in a nationwide tour which comes to HM Theatre in October.

Combining the very best of British humour with equal measures of Morcambe and Wise, Carry On, variety and panto, it’s easy to see why the show is proving so popular at each stop on the tour.

For Emma, known particularly well from her turn in Eastenders as the personification of sweetness Honey Mitchell, it was a case of love at first sight with the play.

“When I first saw the show at the (Theatre Royal) Haymarket, I thought, ‘this is so up my street’. I mean, I could go on Mastermind with what I know about Carry On films,” she said.

It was similar for Jasmyn, though there were other benefits to the universally crowd-pleasing nature of the farcical comedy.

“I saw it two years ago. My boyfriend at the time had never been to the theatre before, and I knew he would love it. It was the perfect introduction to theatre and to what I was all about,” she said.

In ‘One Man’ we see Emma in the role of feisty feminist Dolly, while Jasmyn turns in a delightfully ditzy performance as the heart-sick Pauline Clench. While she’s not a complete newbie to comedy, Jasmyn was more than a little nervous about tackling the play’s brand of physical comedy.

“The first two TV shows I did were comedies, but nothing on this scale,” she admitted. “I was well out of my comfort zone when I started rehearsals. I said to the director, ‘If I’m doing something ridiculously badly, please just say. Help me!’ It all comes down to comedic timing.”

Having been lucky enough to see the show directly after the interview, I can vouch for Jasmyn’s comedic prowess – she definitely stepped up to the plate. So how did she achieve it?

“The writing does an awful lot for you,” she said. “And I learned quickly that the bigger and sillier I was, the funnier I was. The louder, more ridiculous the better, and the more fool I made out of myself, the more laughs I got.”

Emma, who already has great stage pedigree – she played Roxie Hart in the 2009 UK tour of Chicago – seems completely at home in the world of comedy.

“If I could do comedy jobs for the rest of my life, I would be a very happy girl,” she said with a bright smile which perfectly matched the blonde bob she’s currently sporting – though her character has Emma’s more signature brunette locks.

“Roxy is a very funny character, and Honey was very sweet. I don’t think I’m a particularly strong actor doing other things,” she laughed.

As fun and lighthearted as the play may be, life on the road is tough for any actor. Not that either seems to mind the strains of touring.

“I travel by car everywhere. I basically live out of the boot of my car, which is actually quite fun,” Emma explained.

“And we’re all really close too. You end up being a family. It’s great because we’ve got a real mixture of people, ages and backgrounds.”

Jasmyn agreed whole-heatedly, noting that the tour, which ends in March next year, will no doubt fly by. Compared to the world of serial TV though, with its fast pace and ever-developing plots, ‘One Man’ poses the new challenge of finding ways to keep things fresh.

“It helps having new audiences in each town,” Jasmyn said, explaining how she and her co-stars keep the material as zingy as possible. “You have to bend to what they enjoy and respond to. And after that, it’s all about playing off of each other.”


Once March comes, the cast will go their separate ways, some potentially back to Walford – “who knows”, Emma said rather cryptically, I thought – but for Jasmyn, the Hollywood hills are calling. She has her sights set on “saving her pennies” and moving to LA. And with a state-side manager already in tow, things are looking promising.

So what kind of films would she fancy, I wondered out loud.

“I love tragic dramas. That’s where I really enjoy myself. But then also a period drama would be good – maybe something set in the 1950s. I also love an action thriller. Maybe I could play a kidnap victim,” she said excitedly.

For now, though, it’s on with the show for the Eastenders’ graduates – with one exception. Shaun, the loveable Barry from the soap, won’t appear in the Aberdeen leg of the tour, with his character, Charlie ‘the Duck’ Clench, being played by the equally loveable Norman Pace. So it’ll be more a matter of, One Man, Two Guvnors, Two Eastenders.

But a third will be there in spirit, Emma explained.

“I’ve actually focused my walk on Barbara Windsor,” she said with a chuckle, explaining the inspiration behind the busty and vivacious Dolly.

“But it’s okay, I have her blessing. I think she found it quite funny actually.”

One Man, Two Guvnors will be performed nightly at HM Theatre, Aberdeen, from Monday 13, to Saturday 18 October, with matinees also running on Thursday and Saturday. Tickets are available from or by calling 01224 641122