The next interview in our stagey chat series is with the cast of Two Strangers (Carry a Cake Across New York). Sam Tutty and Dujonna Gift star in this two-handed musical currently playing at the Criterion Theatre in the heart of London's West End.

Get yourself comfy and join us for the next segment of Stagey Chat!

Can you tell us about the story of Two Strangers and the roles that you play in the show?  

Sam: I play a guy called Dougal who's flying to America to go to his estranged father's wedding where he's met by Robin, who's a sister of the bride and it's a story of how they sort of change each other during the 36 hours that Dougal's in New York. Facing that inevitability of him flying back home. And it's a story about how they change each other for who they need to be, rather than who they want to be.

Dujonna: I play Robin. I describe her as very much in a quarter life crisis - trying to figure out kind of where she's at in relation to everything else in her life. And she meets Dougal who makes her realise maybe she doesn't need to figure that out. Maybe life will tell her that. And this instance in our meeting being one of those realisations that life will always show you where you need to be.

I loved it. I saw it at the Kiln Theatre, so I'm dying to come see it here. But is there anything different? Any changes?  

D: Most of the changes are more, I would say, the script. Down to sentences. Or harmonies. The script and music kind of accentuate the storyline in a way that translates to the modern audiences. I think this show is a show that can move with the time. And I think that the writer and composer, Kit and Jim, were very keen to make sure that it stays present and allows the audience to feel connected to us, because we feel like we are normal people that they could have known.

Interesting. I do love the story. I kind of want a part two. I want to know what happens.

S: We get that a lot actually. What happens afterwards? And I think it's fun to be like, well you decide, come back; you might have a different decision. And that's the beauty of it.

With the cast just being the two of you, is this an aspect of the show that you like or can it be quite daunting?  

S: It's down to the chemistry of the actors and luckily we get on really well. I think it could be, in another world, probably, there could be some unnecessary obstacles that actors can set in front of themselves. And if you are just honest with your partner I think it just makes it so much easier. And you can both really help each other do good, honest work. And at the end of the day, that's what we're here to do, and that's what we both want. There's no sort of ulterior motive here. It's just to tell a story about two unimportant people that change each other's lives. And I think we're very proud to be involved in the work in that capacity. 

D: I think also the element of a two-handed musical allows us to bring some degree of realism into musical theatre. A lot of people don't like musical theatre because that's the thing that sometimes musicals can feel like they miss. Because it can feel like a spectacle - you've got lights, you've got people singing, you've got a stage moving, you've got these big overzealous costumes - it sometimes can feel like it's not real. 

S: Like the wow factor can take away from the honesty.

D: I think it just being two people, you're forced to listen to what they're saying. And then you're forced to then realise, actually, this is just a conversation. And it then forces us to be more in tune with one another on the stage. And far more so than I've ever experienced. Previous shows with like bigger casts. - it's like you can switch off. Whereas we can't switch off. If I switch off, he's talking to a blank wall, you know?

It's quite unusual for actors be such a huge part of the creative process of the show. Is this something that you guys enjoy doing?

D: Immensely so. It's very important for an actor to feel seen, in any regard. Because it allows you to inform your character more. Like, for example, Sam's Dougal is from Crawley. Because Sam is from Crawley, so it allows Sam to feel more connected to Dougal in that way.

Obviously, I'm not from New York. However, I have a strong connection with New York that informed me doing this role. Like the song where I sing about where I'm from I was able to go and see it and that then allows me to tell the story from a place of truth. 

S: It's amazingly bizarre, really, because in the rehearsal process, Dujonna, like she says, has a connection to New York far greater than I do, and actually greater than the writers do as well. In the sense that she went there quite a lot, and I'm not speaking on your behalf, sorry, but she could actually embody that and inform the creative team. Like, 'oh, could I say this? Because in my experience a New Yorker would say it like this'. And even though that's a tiny thing that would go completely unnoticed to the audience, it's such an important thing for an actor to feel like that. It's such a privilege. And it's that sort of privilege that we don't really get to experience quite a lot. I've never really felt like I could be a cog within the machine. It's always been the actor facing the completed machine, the completed painting - but now we have a little bit of ownership. 

S: And it's not about ego. It's not about anything like that. It's just being able to tell yourself that this is actually the most truthful performance I can give you. And that's that. And it's been accessible because the writers have been so forthcoming and trusting and open - and really interested in our opinions as well. 

Without any spoilers, do you have a standout moment in the show? 

D: Mine is of (Sam's) I just really enjoy listening because I don't actually get to see any of his solo songs. Other than New York. I really enjoy listening because it's one of those songs you don't need to see it to feel it. And I'm changing backstage and I'm also like singing with the dresser. It just feels like  Dougal's turning point and I enjoy that knowing that not only did I contribute to that but also that he reaches that point.

S: We calculated about just two and a half minutes of like off-stage time in the whole show essentially so it's really fun seeing glimpses of Dujonna's performance as well. It gives me access to her character that I'm not really allowed to have. And it's quite fun, it's quite thrilling. But I think we both have a lot of fun in the American Express. A song that isn't out - a song that you can't listen to unless you come and see the show.

D: If you want to see how much fun we had. 

S: Yeah, come and see the show!  

Sarah, Sam and Dujonna discuss mishaps on stage.

S: A quick story, there's an Amex card that we use in the show. It's Dougal's father's card that we use and it wasn't in the bag and we just had to pretend that Dougal saw it in the bag and we had to, top of our head, change the script. It was really fun. It's fun, but obviously your heart's going 120 bpm, but you know, it's part of the job.

D: And that's the thing. People are always like, "oh, how do you do it eight times a week?" But like  every show of ours is different. It's so different. Every one. Like I've never done this show the same way.

S: I'd lose my mind. Especially on the two hand. Like you'd just go crazy.

D: And also like, I'm not affording him any honesty. Like I'm just giving you no springboard to bounce off. 

So we are called Stage to Page, but if you could turn any book from page to stage, what would it be?  

D: Jacqueline Wilson, Girls in Love. It just reminds me of teenage-hood, and I watched a show at The Bush called Sleepover, and I realised there aren't many shows like that - where it's about coming of age, that isn't set in a high school in America - do you know what I mean? It's just about normal people who experience normal things, and they're going through coming into adulthood. 

S: You said normal people and I was like, oh my god, Normal People (by Sally Rooney). That would be a gorgeous play. Very gorgeous. Yeah, I'd do Normal People. 

And finally, why should people book tickets to see the show?  

D: Cause Sam Tutty's in it...

S: Ah, you want to see Olivier award winner -- (laughs)

D: (laughs) you got that!

S: No, it's fun. It's honest. It's open. It's simple to watch. It's also really, really painful to watch at the same time.

D: People say there's nothing like it but there's actually nothing like this. There's no other two-handed musical that we can think of off the top of our head (other than The Last Five Years) that has had this much of a life in the UK, if ever, for a very long time. And also I think this show is a really, really good testament to the direction musical theatre could go. 

I like it for the fact that I feel like anyone can relate to your characters.

S: As a character, we sing because speech does not evoke what we feel anymore. Speech isn't enough.  And it's a really fantastic example of how a song and how musical theatre can transcend language. And I think it's really important that people come and watch it for that reason. 

You can book tickets to Two Strangers (Carry a Cake Across New York) at the Criterion Theatre, here.

Interview by Sarah

No comments