BRIGHTON FRINGE REVIEW: Hats off to Laurel and Hardy

Tony Carpenter (Laurel) and Philip Hutchinson (Hardy) overcome the first big hurdle of a tribute show in Hats Off to Laurel and Hardy at the Sweet Waterfront – they actually look and sound like the originals.

Their characterisations are endearing and life-like and they add to this atmosphere by projecting black and white film of their versions of some of the comedy duo’s best moments.

My particular favourite, when I was a child, was The Music Box – where they repeatedly try to move an upright piano up an impossibly steep flight of outdoor steps.  Their reproduction of that film is truly side-splitting.

These elements of the show work really well along with some snappy to-ing and fro-ing in their live dialogue. What is less successful is the over-long and slightly limp narrative of “we did this ” and “we did that “ – chronicling their rise to fame and their string of failed marriages..

Lucky Dog is a theatre company which specialises in telling the true stories behind famous people. Highly laudible as that is, at times in this show it feels a bit like a first year degree course lecture.

But we do get some terrific one-liners, as in : “If I hadn’t have seen you , I wouldn’t have recognised you”.

They hated being on tv’s This is Your Life at the end of their careers and as Stan says: “we didn’t even get paid”.

What the historical analysis does yield are facts about them that we probably don’t know – their origins, the fact that Stan was a terrific director and writer and hated acting – except with Ollie.

Or that Ollie was unhappy all his life with his weight – “People all over the world were laughing at the fat man – I hate being fat”.

I hadn’t realised how often they did stage and variety shows in England and Europe largely because of impresario Bernard Delfont.

Their sad decline and serious illnesses cast a dark cloud in the last fifteen minutes of the show, but in a touching little scene they are reunited in death. As a final voice-over says “God Bless Our Clowns. “

The show has ended its run at the Fringe.


HATS OFF TO LAUREL AND HARDY

Presented by Lucky Dog Theatre Productions

Venue: Sweet Waterfront 1

Date of performance: May 13

Reviewed by: Brian Butler

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