Sam McArdle ’s one-man black comedy The Manny has its world premiere run at London’s King’s Head Theatre. The comedy, about an Irish male nanny who works for rich single mums in West London, is at the Islington venue from 10 – 14 January 2023.
The Manny, inspired by McArdle’s personal experience of being a male nanny, follows themes including loneliness, a lack of connection, and the struggle to find a sense of belonging and purpose.
The world premiere production, which will be performed by Sam McArdle, will be directed by Melanie Fullbrook with sound design by Charlie Smith.
You’re bringing The Manny to the King’s Head Theatre, what can you tell us about the show?
The Manny is a one man black comedy about an Irish Male Nanny working for rich single mums in West London. It’s based (slightly!) on my own experiences, when I did this job coming out of drama school.
It’s about a character called The Manny In it, who is enjoying a ‘Peter Pan-esque’ lifestyle of well-paid cash in hand work & settling for cold, casual and meaningless dates with women who harmonise happy birthday with their eyes closed, just to disguise himself from the fact that he’s letting life go by without following any real purpose, or allowing himself to really feel anything substantial or lasting.
Throughout the story, he meets Molly, a once-hopeful actress who is now becoming increasingly disillusioned with her life, as she sells beetroot brownies in Borough market, as opposed to playing Cleopatra on Broadway. She in herself, is settling for a life of settling down with someone who is not right for her, but he is financially secure and is a ‘safe bet’.
The two are drawn to each other. Molly has never met someone who she views as free and non-conforming to what is expected. But she also sees something deeper in him, that he doesn’t. The Manny is drawn to Molly, as he has never met someone who so steadfastly believes in a passion, and continues to do so, despite the toll it has on her mental health.
Finally, we meet Michael. He is a 7 year old seemingly irredeemable Right Wing child, and a product of a loveless marriage. He has no father figure, no example that can be set to guide him in life. But something about the morally grey figure of The Manny appeals to him, as the two look to navigate their own sense of hurt and belonging in the show.
It’s based on your own experience, did that make it easier or more difficult to write?
This is the first play I’ve ever written, so having the bare bones of an idea to fall back on, was really useful to me in creating the world of the play. I should point out that the figure of The Manny is only very loosely based on me. I’d like to think I’m not as damaged as he is! But I did look after some children in my time who weren’t exactly sweetness and light.
The play’s wider themes and commentaries on the pressure of 30-something year olds to be “settled” in life, and the anxiety that can come from being lost in your path in life, is something that I experienced and was witness to amongst my peer group.
I wrote the play during COVID, when I had quit acting and moved home to my parents’ house in Dublin. I was burnt out from the entire merry-go round that is, being a struggling actor in London. I started writing down the words, just as a form of therapy to be honest. Ten minutes a day, and then twenty, and so on.
I had the bare bones of a script, got some feedback and kept refining it. After the third draft, I realised that it was no longer just therapeutic for me writing this, but it was instead fast becoming something I wanted to put on stage. I really think the play has helped me get my focus and drive back. I ended up moving back to London in the summer of 2021, with a view to finding a venue to put the show on, and with a huge thanks to the Carlton Tavern in November 2021, I performed a show at a scratch night. My first theatre gig in over 4 years. I felt like I was back.
What do you think will surprise audiences the most about the show?
It’s hard to know what the audience will think about the show, and it’s something that’s out of my control, so I try not to think about it. At first look, the show appears to be quite a flippant comedy about casual dating, and the funny image of a male nanny looking after posh kids.
But I wanted that image to be a gateway into a wider discussion about the transactional nature of dating apps. How I think it has eroded connection in favour of a quick thrill. I also think Societal Pressure and Loneliness are themes that can be related to any industry, it’s not just creatives who go through this. So hopefully the audience will be surprised that the show takes a deeper look into these themes, and is not just a comedy. I hope they laugh though! If they don’t, we’re screwed!
You’re also performing the show, what’s it been like bringing your written words to life?
I started writing this show at the start of 2020, it’s been just under three years in the making to get it to this stage, and I’ve loved the whole process. I’m not thinking about things I can’t control, such as audience capacity or industry reaction, and I’m determined to do what I didn’t do enough of, in my 20’s – to simply enjoy it.
Seeing the play develop over time to get it to here has been really exciting, and a lot of hard work. I couldn’t have done it without my director Melanie Fullbrook. We’ve been best mates since drama school. We started out on this journey together, and she’s been with me every step of the way.
Why do you think The King’s Head is the perfect venue for the show’s first outing?
I’ve got two answers for this! The first is the obvious one, it’s a brilliant venue that supports new writing. Mark Ravenhill who runs it, was a big influence on me with his play Shopping & Fucking. They’ve been fantastic to work with, Christina Gazeldis, Maria Cleasby, Sofi Berenger and Val Londono. I know I’m missing people out I’m sure, but I just wanted to give a shoutout to people who deserve it.
Secondly and far more personally, the last theatre audition I had was in Dec 2020, at The King’s Head. I loved the play and the team were excellent. I worked my ass off for the audition, and I thought I was right for the part. I went into the room and absolutely f*cked up the audition, I think I may have even dried.
I remember leaving that room, walking out into the crisp gorgeous Islington night, and was really annoyed at myself for not having given the best account of myself. Here we now are, three years later, putting this show on. I hope I don’t f*ck it up again! But it’s a nice full circle moment, and a reminder to be easy on myself. And also maybe not to do a dramatic pause when it’s not needed!
What would you say to anyone thinking of booking to see The Manny?
This is a show that is influenced by Fleabag, This Way Up, and I May Destroy You. If you come to the show you’re going to meet characters who have self-destructive qualities, who reveal the best and worst of themselves in situations that we can all relate to, and are going through universal themes such as; feeling lost in life, settling for an easy road instead of following your passions. They are also all hurting in their own way, and they’re looking for a connection, for love.
I also love Wedding Crashers, and wanted to write a tongue in cheek commentary on Mannying in West London, so hopefully fans of that film will also enjoy this! So if the above resonates with you, we’d love to see you there.
The Manny, written and performed by Sam McArdle is at The King’s Head Theatre 10th – 14th January 2023