FIRST staged in 2011 at the National Theatre and starring James Corden, One Man, Two Guvnors became an instant theatre hit. The fast–faced plot is set in Brighton in 1963 at a time when The Beatles were in the first stages of world domination.

Francis Henshall is the out-of-work skiffle player who becomes separately employed by two people from radically different worlds. Chris Jordan, artistic director at Eastbourne Theatres since 2001, spoke to EDWIN GILSON about the play’s lasting appeal.

Aside from the play’s massive success at the West End and Broadway, what made you want to stage it in Eastbourne?

It’s got everything; it’s like a seaside variety show. It’s got a lot of resonance with Eastbourne and the characters talk a lot about the Sussex countryside. There is a lot of physical comedy in it which made me think it was perfect for Eastbourne audiences, who love pantomime.

In terms of stage design have you made a big effort to replicate the Brighton setting?

There are places that look like The Lanes and you see the Palace Pier in the background. A lot of the action is set outside The Cricketer’s pub. You’ll know it’s Brighton when you see it.

How does the music factor in?

We wanted the music in the show to define it; rock and roll was coming in at the time the play was set. That meant we had the challenge of finding actors who could also play music, but these days there are actors who can perform numerous disciplines. In fact Matt Devitt, one of the actors, is from Brighton – he won an Olivier award for Return to the Forbidden Planet and he’s a phenomenal guitarist. The ability to play guitar is an advantage but actors don’t have to compromise their acting skills.

The play is based on an old Italian play, Carlo Goldoni’s 1743 work Servant of Two Masters. Which of the many forms of this production did you look to for inspiration?

More than anything I was just attracted to the farcical elements of it and the audience participation. I won’t give too much away about that but the audience are very much involved. I like the idea that you don’t know what’s going to happen next because of my pantomime background [Jordan has put on many pantos in Eastbourne].

Do you feel any pressure staging a play with such a great comedic reputation, or does that spur you on?

It spurs me on, in a way. Before I did the play, I went to a guy called Aiden O’ Neill and said what do you reckon to playing the role [of Francis]. Getting someone as good as him on board made me confident we would deliver the comedy elements. Putting on a comedy farce like this is a very technical exercise. You’re almost drilling the cast. You have to fine–tune it within a hair’s breadth, you have to rehearse it like a dance.

Does this mean there are a lot of mishaps in rehearsals?

We’ve had a few doors opening in people’s faces at the wrong time.

Does the play tell us much about the social context of the 1960s in general? Francis is an out-of-work skiffle player which seems to suggest there is some musical and cultural significance to the plot.

It’s a play about the awakening of the youth of the time and there are references to homosexuality and issues of the day. The show finishes with a big song called Tomorrow Looks Good From Here. It’s about the dawning of a new age. The characters are asking themselves “where do we go from here?”. I know it sounds a cliché but I think it’s a show that attracts a broad audience. It’s got loads in it. And of course older generations might remember hearing musicians like Donnie Lonnegan the first time round.

Given that focus on the optimism of youth, do you hope One Man, Two Guvnors might attract a younger audience than might usually be the case at Eastbourne Theatres?

We have a duty to appeal to everybody – the average age is 42 for Eastbourne residents. We know the majority of our audience tends to be older and that’s why we encourage younger people to come. We have youth ambassadors to help us spread the word. Eastbourne has such a beautiful Victorian feel as well as a vibrant art scene which includes the Towner Art Gallery. The place has got a lot going for it.

One Man, Two Guvnors, Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne, June 29 to July 22, For more information and tickets visit: