Fool's gold; A smash hit in the West End, One Man, Two Guvnors is now heading out on a regional tour that will see acclaimed actor Owain Arthur in the lead role. The Welshman tells Karen Price how playing the fool has never felt better.
This is in no small way thanks to Welsh actor Owain Arthur who has wowed audiences in the West End after taking over from James Corden a year ago as Francis Henshall in Nicholas Hytner's award-winning production.
Based on Carlo Goldoni's The Servant of Two Masters, the English version of the classic Italian comedy, sex, food and money are high on the agenda. Fired from his skiffle band, Francis Henshall becomes minder to Roscoe Crabbe, a small-time East End hood, now in Brighton to collect PS6,000 from his fiancee's dad.
But Roscoe is really his sister Rachel posing as her own dead brother, who's been killed by her boyfriend Stanley Stubbers.
Holed up at the Cricketers' Arms, the permanently ravenous Francis spots the chance of an extra meal ticket and takes a second job with Stubbers, who is hiding from the police and waiting to be reunited with Rachel. To prevent discovery, Francis must keep his two guvnors apart.
Despite winning over sell-out audiences in the West End and garnering five-star reviews for his leading role, Owain reveals he's feeling more than a little nervous about coming back to Wales.
"I'm ******* it, I'm not going to lie to you," he laughs.
"We've been at (Theatre Royal) Haymarket now for many months and I've built my nest there and made myself nice and comfortable. But now I'm about to join a new touring cast and perform at new venues with new audiences so I am nervous, especially as I'm taking it to the homeland."
The 29-year-old, from Rhiwlas, near Bangor, brings the show to Cardiff when it opens at Wales Millennium Centre on Tuesday, January 22 for five nights.
"I want it to be even better than it's been in London so I'm putting more pressure on myself to succeed," he says.
If the reviews are anything to go by, Owain was the perfect choice to take over from James Corden.
Owain - who attended Bangor drama school Ysgol Glanaethwy before landing a role in S4C series Rownd a Rownd - enjoys the physicality of the role.
"That and the fact that my character is the most stupid person on stage," he laughs. "I also love the unpredictability of the show - there's a bit of improvising on stage which can just change the mood of the show."
And despite playing the part during eight shows a week for a year, fatigue hasn't set in.
"Last night I came off stage dancing - I'm still getting a buzz from doing it. It's testament to the production, the role and the cast that I still enjoy it."
While he's sad to be bidding farewell to the London cast, Owain is looking forward to joining the tour.
"I think it will keep things nice and fresh. I've not met the touring cast yet - the first time I'll meet them is the day before the show opens in Llandudno (the show opened in North Wales on January 2), which will be exciting."
The cast has a distinctly local flavour. Edward Bennett, who plays Stanley Stubbers, is a graduate of Cardiff University and Rosie Wyatt who plays the role of Rachel Crabbe attended the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff.
Once the Welsh dates end, Owain will be packing up and heading to sunnier climes, opening the show in the Far East, including Hong Kong, New Zealand and Australia.
"I've never been to those places before and I can't wait," says the actor, who also took over from James Corden in the National Theatre's production of The History Boys.
"I'll be in Sydney for seven weeks and in Melbourne for seven weeks so I'll be living in those places basically. It means I'll get a real taste of the cities. I'm looking forward to wandering through the streets of Hong Kong and soaking up the culture and I can't wait to see the mountains in New Zealand - apparently it's like Wales on steroids! I'm also looking forward to going to Adelaide as there will be a festival on while we're there and we're going to be a part of it."
Owain will return to the UK in July and he has no work plans beyond that time.
So what would be his dream role? "I would like to do something different.
Very often if I'm doing theatre, I'd like to do film, if I'm doing film I'd like to do TV and if I'm doing TV I'd like to do theatre - but I'll do anything," he laughs. "In this show, I play the harlequin so it would be nice to play a villain of some sort, something completely different. It will be hard to find another comedy that would match One Man, Two Guvnors."
One Man, Two Guvnors is at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, from Tuesday, January 22 to Saturday, January 26. Tickets priced PS18-PS32 from the box office on 029 2063 6464 or via www.wmc.org.uk
Owain Arthur, main, takes on the lead role in the regional tour of One Man, Two Guvnors PICTURES: Johan Persson