5 Questions from Over the Pond: Mark Evans & Patrick Warner
Welcome to our special edition of "5 Questions from Over the Pond"... that goes wrong!
As the Broadway premiere of The Play That Goes Wrong hurtles in a customary accident-prone fashion towards its final performance at the Lyceum Theatre on January 6, 2019, we thought it was high time this most delightful of British comedies take part in our "5 Questions from Over the Pond" feature! And what better way to celebrate all the intentional mishaps of Broadway's (currently) longest-running play than to pair up the two talented actors who are currently playing Chris Bean on both sides of the Atlantic? Chris, of course, is the director and star (with anger issues) of the fictitious Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, who are about to embark on their Opening Night of Susie HK Brideswell's 1920s murder mystery play The Murder at Haversham Manor... and anything that can go wrong, does go wrong. That's the simple premise of The Play That Goes Wrong that results in simply hilarious theatre.
On Broadway, Welsh-born actor Mark Evans is currently making his Broadway debut as Chris Bean. He first established himself in London's West End appearing in the ensemble of shows such as Monty Python's Spamalot and Wicked and would eventually solidify his leading man status by taking over the coveted roles of Fiyero (in Wicked) in 2011 and Sam Wheat in Ghost the Musical in 2012. At the end of that year, American audiences would also get the opportunity to see his talents on stage, as he assumed the leading role of Elder Price in the National Tour of The Book of Mormon. His off-Broadway debut followed in the fall of 2016 as he was cast to play Og in the Irish Repertory Theatre revival of Finian's Rainbow and since September 19, 2017, he has been a part of the uproarious company of The Play That Goes Wrong on the Great White Way.
In the West End, London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art graduate Patrick Warner is currently doing the honors as Chris and is a familiar face in the London theatre scene with credits in shows such as Posh and One Man, Two Guvnors (which starred Tony Award winner James Corden and played Broadway in 2012) to his résumé. He has also toured the UK and internationally with The Play That Goes Wrong and was even cast as Peter Cook in Netflix's award-winning series "The Crown".
So, without any further ado... The New York Theatre Guide and the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society proudly present "5 Questions from Over the Pond That Go Wrong"...
Check out Mark's answers to 5 questions from West End star Patrick:
1) Have you ever trotted into the wings after improvising as Chris and thought “Oh god, I’ve gone too far”? I’ve had a couple of close calls...
As Chris, I am extremely rude and sometimes very insulting to some members of the audience during the pre-show but I feel it’s extremely important that he is that way to establish the tone of the character from the very beginning. He’s under a lot of pressure because it’s ‘Opening Night’ and his rage comes out as a result, which is how I justify him being so wonderfully unacceptable! A patron once complained to the house manager because of ‘my’ behaviour; I merely commented on how she was inappropriately dressed for the theatre - She was actually dressed beautifully but Chris has higher standards than most. As soon as the audience see me walk on stage they realise I’m one of the actors in character, and all is forgiven....I hope ;-)
2) Who’s the worst corpser in the company and how hard do you work to keep them constantly on edge? Has anything ever made the whole cast lose it?
I would say myself and Preston Boyd who plays Robert are the most mischievous, trying to make people laugh! Jonathan Fielding (playing Jonathan) and Alex Mandell (playing Max) are probably the ones who are most likely to corpse - which, if you’re reading this and are not familiar with that British term, means to break character and laugh. HOWEVER, there are times when I find myself in a desperate struggle not to laugh at certain things on stage. The reason it’s a struggle is because of all the characters of the ‘drama society,’ Chris is the most serious and so I feel a sense of guilt if I break his seriousness; but sometimes it’s just unavoidable in such a funny show when you’re surrounded by naturally funny people. It’s called Mischief Theatre Company and there’s a definite reason why!
3) How often do you find yourself flummoxed by a revelatory failure of internal logic in Susie H. K. Brideswell’s work, and what’s your favourite?
Oh I ADORE this script. It’s brilliantly floored as a straight play if you were to read it without any of the things going wrong, it’s extremely short and drastically uninteresting BUT what I love is that Chris cares about it so much. Very early on in our run I spontaneously decided during a backstage improv before one performance that Susie HK Brideswell is actually Chris Bean’s secret pen name and that’s why no one has met her and it’s why Chris gets so precious about everything. He didn’t just direct and design and star in the play, he WROTE it. I really enjoy playing with that idea and the rest of our cast lean into it too.
4) How infuriatingly incompetent are the understudy/ASM characters and which causes you the most grief during the pre-show? Claire Rice organises twenty-strong choruses of children for me and tells them under no circumstances to communicate with me other than by barking...
They are the MOST infuriatingly incompetent and they’re getting worse with every week that passes by. They’ve gone from simply not being able to find the dog that is used in the show to not being able to tell the time, to form a sentence that makes sense or to even look me in the eye. They are themselves like barking children and it’s all brilliant fuel for the fire that is Chris’ internal fury!
5) Can I have your job when you’re done with it? Working on Broadway is a real bucket list goal. What’s been the highlight of the NYC theatre scene for you?
I would say of course you can but the show closes here January 6th so....no....you can’t! It’s been a very successful Broadway run of almost two years - we’re the longest running play currently on Broadway by a long stretch - and I feel grateful to have played this role for what’ll be 16 months by the time the show comes to an end. A perfect Broadway debut in a wonderful play that could not be more British if it tried. Working on Broadway is brilliant. The community is extremely special, there’s such prestige and pride that comes with playing here but it is equally matched by the pride I felt in the shows I worked on in the West End. Hope to meet you in person soon, Patrick. Big love to you and the Brits from over here!
Check out Mark Evans' 5 questions for Patrick Warner on our London Theatre Guide sister site!
The Play That Goes Wrong Tickets are available now for performances through to January 6, 2019.