Following the successful opening of the play One Man Bond in Manchester, Nigel Carr interviews it’s writer and performer, the inimitable Brian Gorman.
Brian Gorman is becoming a bit of a legend on the Manchester arts & entertainment scene. His stage play, New Dawn Fades – A Play About Joy Division and Manchester packed theatres around the UK last year. He has produced two graphic novels, one, Borderliners – True Realities opens with the lead character driving an Aston Martin at 80mph being tailed by an assassin in a Jaguar, and features a guest appearance by arguably the finest Bond, Roger Moore. His second, Everyman – A Celebration of Patrick McGoohan & The Prisoner needs no explanation. Both illustrated in meticulous detail by Gorman whose fascination with sixties pop culture oozes from every page.
His new play One Man Bond, an attempt at condensing every Bond film into the space of one hour (and a bit!) opened at Gullivers in Manchester’s Northern Quarter at the end of August. It was by far the funniest play I have ever seen. To watch one man in a black suit whizz though all the official films (He missed out the farcical Casino Royale from 1967 and Sean Connery’s dreadful attempt at making a come-back in Never Say Never Again) was hilarious. From the Biff!, Biff!, Wallop! of the fight scenes through the clever characterisations and voices to the inevitable Boom!, Boom!, explosions that ripped through the end of virtually every scene. Intelligent, hilarious and a true memory feat, the likes of which I hadn’t witnessed before. Emily Oldfield reviewed the play for Louder Than War here.
I caught up with Brian to ask him about the production:
Louder Than War: How did you come up with the idea for One Man Bond?
I wrote and performed a one man show about Patrick McGoohan, and his 1960s cult TV show The Prisoner. I’ve performed it, on and off, since 2010. A year ago I came across a stage show called One Man Star Wars on YouTube (and saw it live at The Lowry a few months ago), and it sparked an idea. I’d just completed writing and drawing 3 graphic novels, and the show ‘New Dawn Fades: A Play About Joy Division & Manchester’, and I fancied getting back into acting. I also wanted something a little more commercial, and recognisable. Bond seemed ideal.
You must be a huge James bond Fan?
Massive. I read all the Ian Fleming novels, as a kid, in the 1970s. Then saw all the films on TV, and every subsequent one, in the cinema, since 1979’s Moonraker. I’ve also had the good fortune to visit the 007 stage at Pinewood Studios a couple of times, and finally met my childhood hero, Roger Moore, last year. A private meeting, in his dressing room, at The Lowry; it was surreal!
I know you spend many hours watching the films in preparation, can you tell me a little about what you went through?
I thought I knew them all by heart, but studying them in-depth, I realised I needed to get every little detail spot-on. I had to study the characters’ body language, speech patterns, etc. It was also a great challenge to break all 24 films down to just a couple of minutes each. Classic scenes, lines of dialogue, etc. So much to choose, and so much to cut. I’ve spent approximately a year watching the films, and actually hand-wrote (transcribed) a couple of films. I have a notebook, with an entry dated 16th Aug 2016, with dozens of pages of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – around 12 hours worth of hand-written dialogue. I must be crazy!
You must have a remarkable memory to recite in front of an audience for over an hour? Just how did you manage it without fluffing your lines?
I DID fluff the odd line, and had a few blanks! But, based on my experience of the hour long monologue I performed for ‘Everyman: A Celebration of Patrick McGoohan and The Prisoner’, I was confident the lines were in my skull, and if I went blank I shouldn’t panic or drop the mask. The lines would come. It’s bloody exhausting, though!
Did you have to get any special release to use any of the lines in the play?
Cough! Well, that’s a good question. Based on past experience, I have discovered that it’s widely accepted that using dialogue and scenes from films, TV shows, bands, etc. is OK, so long as you’re not making a profit, or performing on a large scale. If I listed the costs of working on this show – research, writing, rehearsing, performing, etc., it’s going to take quite some time before any actual profit is generated. Also, it’s a celebration of the films, and does nothing but entertain and promote the films. One Man Star Wars ran for years before Lucasfilm took notice, and now that show is licenced by the film-makers. There’s also the fact that I’ve been asked to perform the show at Pinewood Studios (where most of the Bond films are made), which says a lot. Fingers crossed!
At one point during Live and Let Die I was reminded of the Tommy Cooper sketch where he is playing two parts?
Ha ha!!!! I was VERY aware of that during rehearsals. Emulating Tommy Cooper does add to the comedy effect, but I do try not to be too extreme in the body postures. Rather than a complete 180 degree turn between characters, I try and simply shift my body weight, and make a subtle distinction.
There were a couple of unused props, the blue octopus and the silver hat and glasses – were they just pointers or were they meant to be used?
It was the first public performance, and the first complete run-through. I originally wanted no props at all. But, we (myself and director SM Worsey) decided to experiment a little. We gathered a few props, and stuck them all on stage. Then, it was up to me to see how I felt during a live performance. A cowboy hat for Sherrif J W Pepper (in Live and Let Die) would add to the comedy, as did the parrot puppet for For Your Eyes Only. There were some props that would have taken too much time, in a very fast paced show, for me to utilise. I am studying a video of the show, to see what worked. It’s still evolving.
How did you feel standing up there for the first time delivering One Man Bond?
Terrified!!! My heart was thumping away. I thought I’d be OK with the lines, moves, etc. It was the sheer energy required! I was breathing hard after 15 minutes, and tried to exaggerate it, so as to add to the comic effect. I’m a great believer in the saying ‘make a virtue out of a necessity’! Even for a younger, fitter person, this is a tough show. It does quieten a little towards the end, when the Daniel Craig movies appear. Some of those scenes are slower-paced, and Daniel has a more measured, and menacing delivery. But, I do have to add more energy to his fight scenes, as they really are more brutal. I must be mad!
How did you feel about the audience reaction?
I think some people were a little wary at the start. As I am dressed in a black suit, white shirt, black tie, etc., I may have looked a little serious at the start. But after around 10 mins, I think everybody realised that the show was meant to be fun, and a little silly at times. Director SM Worsey always maintained that I play the scenes pretty straight, and allow the comedy to come from the dialogue and the situations. I DO throw in the odd exaggeration here and there, depending on how I feel the scenes are being received. The comedy element increases dramatically when Roger Moore appears! Reviews have been absolutely lovely, and audience members have been very appreciative, and commenting on social media. Phew!
Short Featurette – Daniel Thackeray
I understand you are due to perform the play at Pinewood studios – are you able to give us any details?
I have been commissioned to perform at the Classic Bond Day on Sunday 24th September. There is a regular Bond themed day at the studios every year, and it sells out almost immediately. Guests this year include John Glen (who directed 3 Roger Moore Bonds, and both Timothy Dalton’s, as well as working on many others), Shane Rimmer (actor in several Bonds, and the voice of Scott Tracey in Thunderbirds), Several stunt people, cast and crew of Bond movies, etc. Very daunting! But, I have performed the McGoohan play at Portmeirion several times, so I have a habit of jumping in at the deep end! I don’t really know if Roger would have been there to see it. So sad he passed away recently. But the event will have a tribute to him, and my performance will be dedicated to him. It will be surreal beyond my wildest dreams to portray Sir Roger Moore at Pinewood Studios.
How do you feel about Roger Moore’s passing earlier this year?
Very sad. He was my childhood hero in The Saint, and never took himself seriously. One of my favourite films is The Man Who Haunted Himself (1969), where he gave a great performance as a man driven to despair when a menacing doppelgänger seeks to take his place. He did an amazing job of touring the world on behalf of UNICEF, right up until very recently. He could have simply retired and enjoyed himself, but he carried on. I saw his stage show, and he was incredibly inspirational. R.I.P. Simon Templar.
What is your plan now Brian? Can we expect a tour of the play?
My masterplan is a huge tour! For now, working with SM Worsey, we want to test it with live audiences in small venues. It’s a huge risk to book theatre spaces, and we need to get some good reviews, publicity, and attract the attention of the wider public. Performing at Pinewood is a huge deal. Following that, we are looking to book a real national tour for next Spring. My experiences producing New Dawn Fades with a cast of ten, plus several crew, musical instruments, period costumes, etc have made me extremely wary. Hence a one man show! The next performance is at Jacksons Pit, in Oldham, as part of the Third Thursday Theatre season, curated by the wonderful Dan Thackeray. Then, after Pinewood, we have The Commercial Hotel, in Chester, on Thurs 28th Sept. All tickets available through Eventbrite.
As a prolific writer, artist and performer tell me about any other plans you may have in the offing.
I am never bored! I have a script called ‘Tuxedo Warrior: The True Story of Cliff Twemlow – The King Of Manchester Exploitation Movies’ that is ready to be produced (I, personally, don’t have time to produce it). There’s also ‘Hold Me! The PJ Proby Story’, which is in its early stages of writing. We are looking to do New Dawn Fades again, but it’s a huge undertaking, and we need
Forthcoming ONE MAN BOND Dates:
21 September 2017 Jacksons Pit, Oldham
28th September The Commercial Hotel, Chester
Photographs by Shay Rowan who’s on Facebook, Short Featurette – by Daniel Thackeray