Kiss Me Honey Honey! is as loud and brash as the girl from Tiger Bay herself, swerving from broadest physical innuendo to moments of real despair and personal loss, then back again.
Certainly the pair bring a boisterous stage presence and obvious chemistry to the show, along with a pantomime willingness to break the fourth wall frequently if they believe they can wring a few extra laughs from what might be otherwise only a mildly amusing line or situation. Nor are they afraid to opt for the “jazz hands” of extraneous physical “business” to cover the more boring bits, such as Gray’s increasingly panic-induced confusion of wigs and hats while Stott is rapidly explaining an overly complicated plot point which, in all honesty, is as unimportant as it is dull and contrived.
Gray plays Ross, the workaholic refugee from a messy divorce; Stott, a rather innocent and naive mother’s boy called Graham. Both are punch-drunk after being hit by life (one truism at the heart of this play is that, while 40 may be the new 20, “50 will always be 50”) and they have ended up neighbours in a rather dubious bedsit by the name of Maudlin Manors. Unexpectedly, Ross and Graham bond over a shared love of Dame Shirley Bassey and determine to grab life by the horns again.
The story is told clearly and tightly; between them the pair play a host of broadly painted and humorous characters. Yet this could hardly be a more different show from Philip Meeks’ previous Fringe hit, the subtle and restrained Murder, Marple and Me; Kiss Me Honey Honey! is as loud and brash as the girl from Tiger Bay herself, swerving from broadest physical innuendo to moments of real despair and personal loss, then back again.
While Gray and Stott (who is not, for the most part, known as an ‘actor’ outside of the panto season, though on this evidence he should be) acquit themselves well, there’s nevertheless a theatrical queasiness from doing so many tight U-turns. The tightly held ‘hurts’ of both characters, those personal struggles which led them to Maudlin Manors in the first place, deserve better than to be overrun by some pantomime dame foolery 30 seconds later.