Writer: Tony Staveacre
Director: Hannah Chissick
Reviewer: Jamie Gaskin
Comedy is a very serious business. And for comedians it can be a seriously lonely business.So it is for Jigsy a fading club comedian whose need to perform has estranged him from his family and left him clutching at straws and pints of mild.
Les Dennis is quite at home with the rhythm and timing of the world of stand up. More a whiff of The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club, famously televised with Colin Crompton as the MC, than the slick neatly-pressed world of today’s celebrated standups.
Now Dennis brings his Edinburgh Fringe success to Liverpool’s Royal Court. It is an excellent choice of venue as its cabaret-style auditorium puts everyone in the mood for this nostalgic journey.
A journey that reminds us of the sticky floors of old Yates Wine Lodges, jokes about mothers-in-law and the hard times of the City’s poor.
Dennis can be congratulated for keeping us entertained for a non-stop 90 minutes. A long set for any comic to maintain. He particularly delighted everyone with his mimicry of Ken Dodd and Tommy Cooper reminding us that he is much more than a TV quiz show host.
Tony Staveacre’s play, inspired by the legendary Liverpool comic Jackie Hamilton, proclaimed that comedy was cruel because life was cruel.And comedy could be even be cruel to its own: Staveacre reprised the time when Bernard Manning publicly humiliated Peter Cook saying “didn’t you used to be funny”. He reminded us that the great Tony Hancock died alone and friendless.
But the allusions to cruelty and the impending doom were a bit of a tease. Feelings that we were waiting for something else to happen. Perhaps a a darker truth about the man or life to be revealed.
While the sleazy dressing room set with its faded sofa and crass trimmings were spot on, the production wanted sharper changes of pace from director Hannah Chissick.
Clearly his home-town audience identified both with Dennis and the Liverpool comedy culture he was offering as they applauded and even chipped in during the show and most stood up to cheer and clap at the end. One fears it might not work so well outside the North West.
Dennis called on his wide-ranging theatrical experiences to sustain this solo marathon and his fans can be sure of a fun night out. As the play’s motto says: Liverpool Comics never die.