Cal loves making people look silly

Cal McCrystal pictured at The Royal & Derngate.
Cal McCrystal pictured at The Royal & Derngate.

He has worked with comedy stars such as Sacha Baron Cohen, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and now Cal McCrystal is hoping to bring his flair for funniness to Northampton, by directing a rare staging of one of Alan Ayckbourn’s plays.

Ayckbourn’s comedy, Mr Whatnot, has not been performed since 1976 and the script comes complete with reams of stage directions which seem to fit a theatre and cast of several decades ago.

Cal said: “The stage directions go on for pages and that is right through the piece.

“I said, I’m not interested in something that says ‘stand up’ or ‘fall over.’ Then Laurie Sansom (Royal & Derngate’s artistic director) got in touch with Alan Ayckbourn and communicated my concerns. He said ‘of course Cal can rewrite the physical bits’.

“I think I am so much on the audience’s side, I do this to give them a great time. This comedy doesn’t have a message, it is just fun.”

Cal’s directorial debut was in 1996 with a play, called Let The Donkey Go. Then followed work with comedy troupe, The Mighty Boosh.

Since then he has been involved as physical comedy consultant on such exciting projects as The Dictator film, starring Sacha Baron Cohen, and current projects The World’s End, a film starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, as well as the new Paddington movie.

On the stage, he was also the director of physical comedy behind the award-winning One Man Two Guvnors, at the National Theatre. Cal has even held the coveted role of director of clowns in the Cirque du Soleil.

Cal is now considered an industry expert in physical comedy and has carved himself an impressive career on stage and screen.

“I was an actor for a long time and people started asking me to direct their shows when they saw me in plays. At first I refused, but then I gave in and said I would have a go.”

But what is the trick to making something funny?

Cal said: “I get very bored steering actors to sit down or stop talking. But I have a good sense of the ridiculous and I love the silly side of people.

“Some are more funny than others; I would like to say you can make everyone funny, but I can’t succeed every time.

“Some people just have funny bones. What I love about directing is that you get to explore the personalities of each actor and this show has to be as much about them as Ayckbourn. I’m very interested in their own ridiculous sides.”

Mr Whatnot will run at the Royal & Derngate from March 15 to April 6.