‘The entire show is an explosion of fun’

STAND UP: One Man Two Govners Tour - Francis Henshall (Rufus Hound) - Photo by Tristam Kenton
STAND UP: One Man Two Govners Tour - Francis Henshall (Rufus Hound) - Photo by Tristam Kenton
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Previously best known as one man with a very large moustache, stand up comedian Rufus Hound is currently taking on the daunting task of filling fellow comedian James Corden’s award-winning shoes as Francis Henshall in the UK tour of The National Theatre’s runaway hit One Man, Two Guvnors.

So just how did he go from TV’s Celebrity Juice panellist to actor in one of the hottest stage roles around?

“I auditioned for it!” he laughs. “I was in Forbidden Planet in Belfast and I suddenly had a call from The National – as you do!

“I had seen James play the part of Francis in the West End, of course, and I remember thinking at the time what an incredible job for a stand up as you spend so much time talking to the audience and improvising. But I never thought I would get the job.”

And the job in question is playing the chubby, check-suited, chancer in Richard Bean’s updated version of Carlo Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters – a classic piece of commedia cellaret from 1743.

“Meeting the show’s director Sir Nicholas Hither was very daunting but I auditioned for him and after the second piece he just said ‘lovely’ and walked off and I was like what does that mean?”

He was offered the international tour for 2013 but turned it down.

“I have two small kids and I have to think about them. As Nigel Lawson once said ‘you have to be the picture and not the frame when you have children’ and I really understand what she meant now. But I told them I would kill to do the national tour and here we are! And the cast are great – like one jolly happy family.”

He especially enjoys the improvisational side of the role.

“Of course I am much more comfortable with that as that’s my background and that’s my specialise. I have to compartmentalise a bit. I have say to myself this is Francis and I am acting now and this is Rufus and I am doing my thing with the audience and it’s knowing when to pull out of which – it’s a judgement call. And this play is a very different tone for me as the comedy is hitting the audience from all sides – the whole cast are doing pun runs and slapstick and it’s just an explosion of fun. But I really feel I have to earn that applause at the end of each show, so I am literally tearing myself to pieces every day to do a good job. It’s very hard to feel you are worth much if you don’t try hard enough.”

And that tearing himself to pieces has led to some eye-watering injuries due to the well-documented physicality of playing Francis. And weight loss.

“Let’s be honest I’m a fat bloke and that’s required for Francis and with all the exercise I am now losing lots of weight so I have to eat loads of sweets to keep it on. It’s a massive sacrifice on my part of course...”

But is he anything like Francis?

“He is a fat, greedy idiot - so yes. He is good-hearted and a bit dim, but is basically a people pleaser and wants people to like him and I too have the need to be universally loved by strangers. But he is the polar opposite of me as a stand up. I was deliberately trying to annoy people and became far too cynical. So I decided if I started doing nicer things I would be a nicer person, so I did a romantic comedy and some political theatre and became much less frustrated by things. It’s very easy to get caught up in the world’s impending environmental apocalypse and financial ruin so now I just lift a trunk on stage!”

And how does he feel about working alongside his Blackpool co-star Jodie Printer in her hometown?

“I haven’t met her yet as she is in the West End but I’ve heard she is doing an absolute bolter of a job. I’m looking forward to working with her, but I’m less keen that the Blackpool audiences will love her more than me!”

The National Theatre’s One Man, Two Gunners is at Blackpool Grand Theatre from Tuesday November 27 to Saturday December 1. Call the Grand Theatre box office on (01253) 290190 or visit the interactive website Blackpool grand.co.auk