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The Green Room: What would your one-person show be about?

Simon Callow is well known for his one-man shows. Pictured in: Tuesdays at Tesco’s, A Christmas Carol and Inside Wagner’s Head. Photos: William Burdett-Coutts/Tristram Kenton

Gary Abblett is a 38-year-old jobbing actor with experience at the National, RSC, in the West End and on the road

Adam Lovett is a 45-year-old actor who has appeared in film, BAFTA-winning TV, at the RSC, National and West End


Albert Parker is 60 and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA award winning sitcoms, theatre and TV

Peter Quince is a 72-year-old actor working in theatre and television

Annie Walker is 25. Since graduating from drama school, she has worked in regional theatres and is a writer and street performer


GarySex always sells. I’d like to disprove that – so sex.

JonWould you… play sex?

Gary I’d try.

Adam I miss one-person shows. They used to be the actor’s showcase in the pre-YouTube age. And some of them were fascinating. You see them less and less these days.

Albert Funnily enough, the one-man show I have done, which I didn’t write, was all about the gap between the image we present to the world and what’s inside. Mercifully it was first staged in the late 1980s before social media started serving the same function.

Adam It’s a cliché but… my father. He made the decision to leave India, came to England with nothing, peeling potatoes on a boat to pay his way, built a business, married, lost his wife to cancer eight years later and was left to raise a son on his own – acres of family trauma.

Albert Mine would have to be funny – something that stretched me as an actor, and had lots of video inserts to minimise the number of lines I had to learn.

Gary Gay Premier League footballer. I’m sure it’s been done, but that would be good.

Peter It’s too late but I have two choices: either: Gerald Manley Hopkins – troubled priest, genius poet, or: Harold Davidson, the vicar of Stiffkey. A comic actor (he played Charley’s Aunt), who became vicar of a small Norfolk church, he was known as the Prostitutes’ Padre. He was accused of misbehaviour, was defrocked, campaigned in a barrel on the Golden Mile in Blackpool and was killed by a lion in a seafront funfair in Skegness.

Albert There is a plot line.

JonStaging the end of that story would be fun.

Adam On a religious note, back in the day, didn’t Alec McCowen have a huge hit when he learned one of the gospels and toured that as his one-man show? It’s hard to imagine that happening now.

Albert The one thing that always worries me about a one-man show is knowing that nobody else is going to come on for the next hour. So mine would need lots of characters.

Adam The form feels dated these days. If you do it, you have to do something unusual, like Simon McBurney did in the electrifying The Encounter. Fleabag [1] is an amazing one-woman show. I was bowled over watching her do it years ago. Chewing Gum Dreams had that vibe too – and both made stars of Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Michaela Coel.

Annie I’d do one about the history of female jugglers, or bingo calling, or being a living statue.

JonThe history of bingo calling? That sounds ace.

Annie It’s very interesting, and, what with my personal experience, there is a big old sitcom in there.

Albert I used to be a bingo caller – in the late 1990s during a spell out of work. Brilliant source material.

Annie It was my first training in becoming an actor and compere before heading to drama school. I loved it, most days… It was good voice training too.

Albert You could get the audience to have a game of bingo and relate all the stories to the various numbers.

Annie Bingo the Musical!

Adam This is turning into The Producers. Death of a Salesman on Ice.

JonSo far we have a gay, Indian vicar and ex-footballer working as a bingo caller…

Annie I’d buy a ticket.

Albert Any good one-man show reveals something about the performer. More than anything, in a one-man show, you have to bring something of yourself.

Adam What was the last good one-person show you saw?

Albert The thing is, I avoid them like the plague – having been in one, knowing that feeling that when the lights went up it was just me talking for the next hour.

Gary Talking Heads [2] – still great.

Albert I have to say, Talking Heads set the bar for me.

Adam Although Talking Heads is not strictly a one-person show, I suppose. There are usually two actors doing a monologue in each half. Which makes me think about how valid the form is.

Albert Well the same actress could do three of the female ones…

Adam They could. Although I am not sure it’s ever been done that way. It’s just interesting to me how few are done these days.

JonMy favourites are the same as yours, Adam. Chewing Gum Dreams and Fleabag.

Annie The best I saw was This Will End Badly [3] and I loved it. Haven’t seen one in a while actually… Does stand-up count? I saw Stewart Lee – oh my God.

Peter Krapp’s Last Tape.

Albert I remember flicking through Samuel French’s The Guide to Selecting Plays as a teenager and Krapp’s Last Tape was the only one-person play listed. I bought a copy and spent hours setting it up with my tape recorder at the highly unsuitable age of 14.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge to perform Fleabag on stage for last time in West End run [4]