Canned Laughter

Some people claim that the 1960s and 1970s were the golden age of British comedy. There’s plenty of to enjoy from this era but it often lacks any real substance. Canned Laughter takes tired vaudeville inspired routines and bends them around an up-to-date narrative.

It’s a funny show. Some of the gags and routines might be simplistic for today’s audiences but that’s the point – it’s era specific comedy.

It’s a funny show. Some of the gags and routines might be simplistic for today’s audiences but that’s the point – it’s era specific comedy.

The script by Ed Curtis and Allan Stewart, is surprisingly deep, self criticising, and metatextual – it draws on Stewart’s career but has enough objective distance to avoid overbearing self revelations. At times its Kaufmanesque and any criticism you’d have of the script are addressed within the show; this could be nauseating but it really works here. Often the comedy and drama sections are kept apart but when they start to merge these scenes become great theatre.

Gabriel Quigley as Maggie should get a mention at the very least for being the only female voice in what is portrayed as a man’s world. She doesn’t get a lot to do, other than move the plot along, but her character feels real and authentic.

Allan Stewart and Andy Gray play Alec and Gus. Formerly a double act, the frame of the show is built around their first meeting in a few decades. Stewart and Gray are known for improvising on stage but they don’t get much of a chance in the play, which shows a lot of self constraint.

Grant Stott plays Rory and provides beating dramatic heart of the show. I’ve often criticised Stott’s acting abilities in many publications of the years but here I’m happy to admit he’s really good. His fall from grace is utterly heartbreaking, but there isn’t much more I can say without giving away spoilers.

Canned Laughter really works as a drama about comedy. Comedy nerds won’t see anything new but you can’t fault the form and craft on the stage.

Reviews by James W. Woe

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The Blurb

It’s the 1970s and funny men Alec, Angus and Rory are one of Scotland’s top comedy acts. And now they’re hitting the big time – top of the bill at the King's Theatre in Edinburgh – and it looks like they’re getting a TV show. This comedy trio are riding high and nothing’s going to stop them.

Fast forward to today and the three find themselves together again for the first time in decades. What happened to break the group up? Will they be able to put their past differences behind them? And why do they still care who gets the biggest laugh?

Starring Allan Stewart, Andy Gray and Grant Stott this brand new comedy written and directed by Ed Curtis (I Dreamed A Dream, Never Forget, Jolson & Co) with Allan Stewart tells a tale of friendship, ambition and regret. And of course laughter… lots and lots of laughter.