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Richard Bean
Photo by Greg Funnell

Richard Bean interview

The London-based playwright spills the beans on 'One Man, Two Guvnors' and his other comedies

By Andrzej Lukowski
British theatre’s leading comic writer, Richard Bean, is best known for the massive West End smash ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’. His latest project is a Keith Allen-starring, Petersham-relocated update of his 2003 satire ‘Smack Family Robinson’. He talks through his biggest plays.
One Man, Two Guvnors, Adelphi Theatre, National Theatre

‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ (2011)

The National Theatre’s production of Bean’s Brighton-set farce has been a global smash.
‘I don’t think it’s changed my life too much. I’ve lived in Stoke Newington for 33 years, I still live in Stoke Newington, but I’ve moved from an ex-squat two-bed basement flat to a Hackney terrace. I still love the play: I’ve seen it about 65 times and what amazes me is that I’m still laughing at my own jokes.’
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© John Hayes

'The Big Fellah' (2010)

A scathing satire on Irish American support for terrorism.
‘We know perfectly well that the Irish American community supported the IRA for 30 years. And the core of that group was police and firemen, many of whom died in 9/11. That’s the smacking big irony that I don’t think anybody else has talked about.’
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© Chris Christodoulou

'England People Very Nice' (2009)

This National Theatre comedy about four generations of immigrants was hit by protests accusing it of racism.
‘It was basically one man who organised a campaign against the play, a Bangladeshi playwright. In fairness, he’s possibly writing plays about the Bangladeshi community, and then I come along with a play whose fourth act is all Bengalis. But then he missed the central point of the play: it was about stereotyping.’
Smack Family Robinson

‘Smack Family Robinson’ (2003)

This comedy about an unlikely crime boss is based on a real life family.
‘I came across an article about the Compton family in Brighton: they lived in a detached house in a respectable area – a very upper middle class situation. It turns out they were dealing heroin and cleaning their money through a very modest flower shop. There had also been an unexplained death in the house. It was fabulous: it read like a play, a real Joe Orton-style dark situation.’
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‘The Count of Monte Cristo’

Bean’s adaptation of the Dumas classic was due to be the National Theatre’s 2012 Christmas show, but it was cancelled.
‘That’s off I think. I wrote the script and delivered it, and they reckoned it was unproducable. Anyone who has read the book– the size of it! – would just have to sympathise. I thought I’d done a good job, but obviously they didn’t. These things happen.’
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