Reviewer: Simon Topping
Oliver Hardy (Philip Hutchinson) looks to start the show but cannot as he is being heckled from the back of the room. We soon find out it is Stan Laurel (Tony Carpenter) doing the barracking and Hardy goes to confront him. This is the start to Hats Off to Laurel and Hardy, a loving tribute to the comedic duo, telling the story of their lives.
What is immediately noticeable to the crowd is how strikingly close Carpenter looks to his character. It is uncanny, but we have no time to take this in fully, the story comes at us at a pace, there is a lot of information to digest in a short time.
While Carpenter’s delivery is sometimes hesitant, as he seems to be searching for the words, Hutchinson portrayal is more assured. Both physically embody their subjects well and we are treated to several routines of fabulously timed group movement pieces and synchronised speech that are cleverly done and funny to watch.
The low-budget remakes of some of the sketches projected on a big screen for us are charming, if not fully satisfying. The show is touching in places, but, although there are plenty of small laughs throughout the play, there are no full-bodied guffaws.
The biggest impression of the feeling among the audience, as we leave the room, is of the need to rediscover the Laurel and Hardy classics for ourselves again. Which is a fitting tribute to the show.
Reviewed on 13 May 2017 at Sweet Waterfront 1
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