Writer: Ed Curtis with Allan Stewart
Director: Ed Curtis
Reviewer: Dominic Corr
Regular patrons of the King’s Theatre might just recognise tonight’s stars without their panto make-up. Allan Stewart, Andy Gray and Grant Stott play a trio of ageing comedians once a triple-act, who go their separate ways. After writing the titular play, Gray’s character Gus tries his hardest to convince old ‘Wee Three’ member Alec (Stewart) to join him once more as the presence of their abandoned colleague Rory (Stott) lingers at the dressing room window.
First and foremost – Canned Laughter doesn’t need the laugh track for which it is named, in keeping with the theme of old-time comics returning to their younger days, a few of the hoary old jokes have been dusted off too, though to their credit they’re performed with the timing of comedic greats. It harkens back to the glorious era of Morecambe and Wise (though, if you’ve seen the King’s annual panto you may recognise a gag or two).
That being said; when Stewart and Gray fight for the spot light on stage during a wonderful rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow the ripples of laughter seem as if they’re never going to cease. No joke falls flat,it’s clear these men live and breathe comedy.
There’s a much needed darkness to the script, but it doesn’t push hard enough. At times the sudden bleakness comes out of nowhere only to beswept away by bright lights and a gag. Stott’s performance as Rory fails to fully deliver the poignancy of his character’s struggle with humiliation and alcoholism. This is more of a scripting error than that of the performer; Stewart too, is always on the brink of portraying a character who fully realises the damage he has done only for it to be ripped away as the script shies fromconfrontation.
Like the comedy greats these three showbiz veterans blend drama with the jokes, striking out at the audience’s empathy but not pushing hard enough to leave a deep connection. Canned Laughter will leave you reminiscing and chuckling, but little more than that.
Runs until Saturday 2 April 2016 | Image: Contributed