Searchlight Theatre Company returns to the Brighton Fringe with their delightful show Mr Laurel and Mr Hardy at the Rialto Theatre. The production is as simple and straightforward as the title suggests and all the better for it.
a comforting journey down memory lane
David Leeson is joined by Colin Alexander as Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy respectively. They play those roles from time to time, but this is not about impersonation and neither is it in the mould of a tribute show, but rather a nostalgic telling of the comedy couples last UK tour that started in 1952. In addition to historical narrative, the story is largely told through the eyes of two stagehands, avid fans who see the celebrities backstage, in their dressing rooms and from the wings as they tour some of the great and also lesser theatres of the day. The Palace Theatre Manchester was a major venue for them, but their last UK performance was at the Palace Theatre Plymouth on May 17, 1954, after which they set sail for the USA, where Hardy died in 1957. Laurel lived to 1967, but never performed again following the loss of his greatest friend. All this and much more is detailed in the show.
They ranked among the biggest names of their day and were admired by the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Dance of The Cuckoos became their signature tune. It would announce their arrival wherever they went as it does at the Rialto. For those not familiar with their style of humour, in the films it was mostly slapstick, but on stage their terrible line in groaning jokes was more evidenced. "You can lead a horse to water, but a pencil must be led." That one’s not n the show, but it gives you an idea. Hardy had a fine tenor voice and built up a repertoire of songs, several of which are beautifully sung in the show by Alexander, including classics such as The Trail of the Lonesome Pine and Honolulu Baby along with many others.
The show makes for a comforting journey down memory lane; a light-hearted piece of escapism that preserves a major part of theatre history and acknowledges the enormous contribution to entertainment made by two of its finest talents.