One comedy, two audiences: UK hit tailored for Broadway

Playwright Richard Bean reworks James Corden show to suit American theatregoers

Playwright Richard Bean understands the quip about a common language dividing Britain and America better than most. Tonight marks the first Broadway performance of his National Theatre smash hit One Man, Two Guvnors – a quintessentially British comedy, albeit adapted from an Italian play – and Bean has been working to the wire on a transatlantic "translation".

Double yellow lines and solicitors face the chop in a bid to make the dialogue American-friendly, but the dustbins and cricketers, so far, are staying. But even when the curtain goes up this evening, Bean's new script version will be a work in progress.

The show, starring James Corden, has proved a runaway success in Britain, and classically British shows have been on a good run of US form of late: Billy Elliot picked up 10 Tony awards, War Horse took five, prompting plans for a 20-city tour, while Jerusalem received huge critical acclaim.

Nevertheless, all involved in One Man, Two Guvnors face an anxious wait to see if its riotous humour will have the Broadway crowds rolling in the aisles.

In a bid to maximise its chances, Corden – who has no ready-made fan base in the US – has been heavily publicised in the build up to the opening. "I wonder if they see a US archetype in James; the comedy fat guy," said Bean, who arrived in New York on Wednesday, a day after the first rehearsal.

He and director Sir Nicholas Hytner, will now use a series of previews to further tailor the dialogue and pratfalls for a US audience ahead of its official opening night at the Music Box theatre later this month.

Bean, who wrote One Man, Two Guvnors by radically reworking Carlo Goldoni's 18th-century work The Servant of Two Masters, moving it to Brighton in 1963, said that adapting the work for a US crowd was a "subtle process".

"The basic rule was to remember what this is; it is end-of-the-pier nonsense set in Brighton, it is not end-of-the-pier nonsense in Coney Island. I think the American audience will go with its Britishness."

Yet the writer has been forced to tweak some of the language. "There's a joke about one of the characters leaving his horse on a double yellow line. That horse has become double parked," Bean said. The decisions about what to change were not all so straightforward. "There's the running debate over solicitor versus attorney and just a load of little things like that," he said. "I will keep working on it through the previews to see what works."

One word to survive was dustbin, which is used in a pun on the name Dustin. Bean was loathe to change the word to trashcan "as they would not have said that in Brighton of the Sixties" – and the joke would fall flat. Instead of taking the line out, Bean set the scene up by using Corden's character to refer to the dustbin in an earlier scene.

While references to one character talking about an Arsenal fan as a "Gooner" were removed, Denis Compton and Don Bradman remain, with an explanatory line referring to them as "famous cricketers". He's unsure whether that will make the final cut.

By way of preparation, Bean met American tourists who saw the play when visiting London, to find out what translated: "I spent a long time listening," he said. "We went through the semantics pretty thoroughly. Ultimately there's enough physical comedy in it to mean that hopefully the language won't get in the way."

Arts & Entertainment
TV

Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
music

Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
ComedyCollier was once told there were "too many women" on bill
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
music

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit