Bringing The Odd Couple to Welwyn Garden City

PUBLISHED: 21:50 03 July 2013 | UPDATED: 13:53 04 July 2013

Marty Maguire as Felix and Guy Masterson as Oscar in The Odd Couple at the Hawthorne Theatre in Welwyn Garden City

Marty Maguire as Felix and Guy Masterson as Oscar in The Odd Couple at the Hawthorne Theatre in Welwyn Garden City

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THE "perfect comedy" will be coming to the Hawthorne Theatre when resident artist Guy Masterson brings his eight-man production of the award-winning play The Odd Couple to Welwyn Garden City.

The Odd Couple

Oscar: “I’ve got brown sandwiches and green sandwiches. Well, what do ya say?”

Murray: “What’s in the green?”

Oscar: “It’s either very new cheese or very old meat.”

The play centres on the lives of two mismatched roommates; neat-freak Felix Ungar (Marty Maguire) and the slovenly Oscar Madison (Guy Masterson).

It looks like Oscar has rubbed off on Guy as he shows me into his office at Campus West, where he has been resident artist at the Hawthorne Theatre since 2009.

The room seems full to bursting with papers, props and assorted odds and ends after he tells me he was moved from a bigger office – the Welwyn Hatfield Times’ current home – to a smaller one on the floor below.

The 51-year-old said: “I thought we have the perfect cast – let’s do it here.

The Odd Couple at the Hawthorne Theatre in Welwyn Garden CityThe Odd Couple at the Hawthorne Theatre in Welwyn Garden City

“It is the perfect comedy, it is widely regarded as the finest comedy, but it is just hilarious.”

This will be the Olivier Award-winner’s third time directing The Odd Couple, which premiered on Broadway in 1965 and picked up an Oscar nomination for the 1968 film starring Jack Lemmon and Walther Matthau.

He first directed comedians Bill Bailey and Alan Davies at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2005 and then took the play, using different actors, to Belfast, where he was persuaded to play Oscar after his first choice dropped out.

A £30,000 set was built for the production, which turned out to be such a success Guy is now bringing it to the Hawthorne for a week’s run later this month.

Guy Masterson stars as Oscar Madison in The Odd Couple at the Hawthorne Theatre in Welwyn Garden CityGuy Masterson stars as Oscar Madison in The Odd Couple at the Hawthorne Theatre in Welwyn Garden City

“There is a laugh in every line and some people may remember the film with great fondness,” says the father of two.

“But the play is funnier than the film – the film is chuckle funny, but the play is laugh out loud funny.”

Guy is best known for the work he does with his company Theatre Tours International, which is responsible for his Olivier-winning hit Morecambe, 12 Angry Men, which starred Bill Bailey, and Christian Slater’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

But his speciality – his “bread and butter” – is the one-man shows he puts on tours. In August he finished acting in his worldwide tour of Animal Farm, directed by Tony Boncza.

The Odd Couple will be performed at the Hawthorne Theatre in Welwyn Garden CityThe Odd Couple will be performed at the Hawthorne Theatre in Welwyn Garden City

Guy was offered the position of artist in resident at the Hawthorne Theatre four years ago after moving to Northaw, and said it was a role he just couldn’t refuse.

Bursting with enthusiasm, Guy says: “There is a huge demographic of people who love the theatre and when you consider the position of the Hawthorne in relation to Hertfordshire and London it is almost perfect.

“We changed the name from Campus to the Hawthorne – I think it had connotations of being part of the university and that put people off – and we think that has had quite an impact.

“But when I tell people there is a theatre here with 300 seats in it they are really surprised. It’s a best kept secret.

The Odd Couple

Felix: “In other words, you’re throwing me out.”

Oscar: “Not in other words. Those are the perfect ones!”

“It is almost a perfect theatre – it’s got great lighting, and the tech team are great and the area is great. I jumped at the chance.”

The original idea when he started was for Guy to create work under the Hawthorne name and it would go around the world – but then the recession hit.

“It is a difficult time for theatre at the moment all around the country,” he says.

“People are struggling to find that extra £50 a week to go out and enjoy themselves and people are having to be careful about what they see.

“And if you don’t have the guarantee of an audience every night then productions can be a bit of a risk.”

But Guy is still determined to put the Hawthorne Theatre on the map, with more productions planned for the year ahead.

“And we are going to put on some really good titles and then we are going to put some ideas out there.”

The Odd Couple opens at the Hawthorne Theatre on Friday, July 19 and runs until Saturday, July 27.

Call the box office on 01707 357117 for ticket details.

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