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Rules for Living
© Simon Annand

Stephen Mangan on ‘Rules for Living’, onstage mishaps and backstage riders

TV and theatre funny man Stephen Mangan talks family coping mechanisms and the need for kneepads as ‘Rules for Living’ comes to the National Theatre

By Daisy Bowie-Sell
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From ‘Green Wing’ to ‘Jeeves and Wooster’, Stephen Mangan has made us laugh a lot over the years. Now he’s back as a neurotic ex-cricketer in chaotic new comedy-drama ‘Rules for Living’.

Do you have rules backstage?
‘I’m generally just delighted they’ve given me a job and am hoping they aren’t going to fire me. I don’t have crazy riders, like two grams of coke.’

What do you do before you go on?
‘Music is important. I always find the song that gets me into the mood for the role. When I played Bertie Wooster I used to listen to the theme tune for “The Muppets”.’

Have you ever had any onstage mishaps?
‘I did a play once where I had to fight the most uncoordinated actor in Britain. It made me so tense. Every day I’d get whacked in the face or kicked in the groin. I also accidentally made an actor fall eight feet off the front of the stage during a performance of “As You Like it”. It was terrible, but pretty funny.’

You’re padded up in rehearsal pictures. Is ‘Rules for Living’ a bit dangerous?
‘It looks as though we’re in “Starlight Express”! But no, the knee pads are being used because of the National Theatre’s strict health and safety guidelines. We won’t be wearing them on stage.’

What is ‘Rules for Living’?
‘It’s a dramedy, or whatever you call it. We’re siblings going back to our parents’ house. The rules are our characters’ coping mechanisms.’

Sounds complicated…
‘Yes, it is. My character can’t take anything seriously, so he has to put on a silly voice. This may have been funny to begin with, but now it’s compulsive.’

Rules for Living’ is at National Theatre, Dorfman, until Jul 8.

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