...and This is My Friend Mr Laurel
KPS Productions and The Finishing Touch Company
It's a sad fact of the passage of time, that Laurel and Hardy are becoming increasingly unknown to the younger audiences of today.
A fact that is underlined all the more strongly when shows like ...and This is My Friend Mr Laurel draw audiences who are mainly aged in the over-30s. That the comedians of the first half of the last century have become increasingy sidelined and forgotten today is a fact not lost on this production, as the theme is very much the passing of great men into eternity.
Jeffery Holland is utterly believable, and warmly captivating, as the emotionally fraught Laurel, visiting his best friend Oliver 'Babe' Hardy after a paralysing stroke has laid him low. Playing to the empty bedframe, Holland weaves a broad canvass of wistful story, with occasional snippets of humour from the more than a hundred films the comedy duo starred in together.
If there's a flaw to this piece it's that it occasionally feels too real. The weighing of the 'show' vs the 'story' never quite finds the balance, where the moments of comedy, where we step out of the bedroom and into the movies, feels unnecessary. While they don't detract from the experience, the result is to dilute the poignancy and immediacy of the raw emotion.
Still, a fairly minor quibble in a glowingly heartfelt production.
Reviewer: Graeme Strachan