EastEnder Emma's having fun with One Man Two Guvnors

YOU know Emma Barton will be good fun by her answer to the first question thrown at her:

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Emma Barton with  Shaun Williamson, her co-star in One Man Two Guvnors, which opens at the King's Theatre on June 30. Picture: Nick Ponty
Emma Barton with Shaun Williamson, her co-star in One Man Two Guvnors, which opens at the King's Theatre on June 30. Picture: Nick Ponty

'Have you ever had sex in the woods while being watched by a grizzly bear?'

"No, but there's still time," says the former EastEnder, smiling.

The question, it has to be said, wasn't to test the 36-year-old actress's interview mettle.

It had in fact been the subject of conversation just seconds before with Shaun Williamson, her former TV co-star with whom she's now sharing the stage in touring theatre romp, One Man, Two Guvnors.

Sean had just been revealing colourful details of his adventures in an American summer camp when Emma sat down.

But while she hadn't enjoyed the same Camp America experience, she is loving being part of the current production of Two Guvnors.

"The first time I saw it I loved it so much I went back to see it the following night," she recalls.

"Then about three weeks later, the call came though to audition for the part.

"In fact, I had to audition twice, and when I got it I really danced around."

Emma, who starred as Honey Mitchell in the BBC1 soap, plays Dolly, the rather ditsy bookeeper.

Interestingly, she points out being an EastEnder for three years and having a national profile doesn't mean diddly when it comes to pleasing theatre bosses.

"You've got to go back to the basics," she says of the interview process. "No-one likes interviews because you put so much pressure on herself. It's really stressful."

Many American actors now dress for roles, hoping to convince directors. Is that something Emma has resorted to?

"Yes, when I went up for the role of Roxie Hart in Chicago I turned up at the audition wearing nothing but a pair of pants and a bra," she says, laughing.

"No, but seriously, I did sort of show off the figure a little bit. And I did a bit more with the make-up.

"You've got to try hard because you look around the audition room and reckon other people there are more deserving than you. It's difficult."

Emma wanted to act from an early age, a singing-dancing kid who dreamed of acting as a seven year-old in the school play.

"It's so rewarding," she says of the job. "Especially getting to share the experience of something like One Man Two Guvnors."

The plot of the National Theatre's award-winning comedy is, well, tricky to explain.

Fired from his skiffle band, Francis Henshall becomes minder to Roscoe Crabbe. But Roscoe is really Rachel, posing as her own dead brother - who's been killed by her boyfriend Stanley Stubbers.

Francis takes a job with Stanley Stubbers but to prevent discovery, he must keep his two guvnors apart.

"It's seductive, but comedy is more difficult than drama. You have to learn to ride the laughs. Timing is all," says Emma, who reveals her initial forays into comedy weren't without tribulation.

"I worked with the legend of farce Ray Cooney in Over The Moon at the Old Vic, and I played this ditsy blonde rather over the top.

"I was trying to be silly, but Ray told me I had to play her honestly. That way the laughs come. He was so right."

Emma also learned from working with Jimmy Osmond. "I realised it's not about being aloof in this business. He was lovely."

Emma's family, she maintains ,kept her grounded during the Eastenders period when attention was white hot.

"I was obsessed with the show as a kid. I had an EastEnders photo album, in fact. So it took me six months to come to terms with people were now recognising me from the television.

"I really felt for my friends and family, and I felt really shy But then when I left I sobbed. I was in bits and so was Perry. (Fenwick, who plays Billy.)

"But I was lucky going straight into Chicago."

Will Honey ever return to Albert Square?

"Who knows?," says Emma. "I'd go back. I miss the people. But I'm doing all right."

"I'm still getting paid to dress up every night," she condludes with a grin.

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