…And This Is My Friend Mr Laurel Attic, The Pleasance

I guess that if you were to ask many young people today to name the greatest double act in show business history, they would undoubtedly answer “Ant & Dec”! What a depressing thought, and one that would baffle millions – including myself. Surely, the real answer cannot be anyone else than Laurel & Hardy.

Even after so many decades have passed, Stan & Ollie remain the funniest and best loved duo ever to walk in front of a camera, step onto a stage, or fall off a ladder! And as a beautifully crafted tribute to “the boys”, this one-man show has been lovingly co-written and performed by actor Jeffrey Holland (a familiar and recognisable figure from a golden era of BBC comedy), in the role of Stan Laurel, as he faces his final days without his ailing partner.

As an ardent Laurel & Hardy fan since childhood, Mr Holland freely admits that this has been a major labour of love for him, and his deeply felt affection for his comedy heroes shines through with his portrayal of Stan.

With warmth, charm and gentle good humour, the story centres on the older Stan Laurel paying a last visit to his great friend and partner Ollie “Babe” Hardy, as he lies dying in his hospital bed. A nostalgic trip down memory lane then proceeds as Stan gently reminisces about the good and happy times they shared together, and relates the ups and downs over many years of their joint careers.

He also ruefully expresses regret of his past, particularly when he ruminates on his appalling track record with marriage, (for those who might be unaware, Stan Laurel had ten wives – even marrying some of the same brides twice!) He also talks of his creative frustrations, as he constantly butted heads with obstinate studio boss Hal Roach. For it was Stan who remained the creative driving force behind the team’s ultimate success, never harbouring resentment when Ollie disappeared to the golf course, or the racetrack, while he worked away in the editing room, fine-tuning their classic routines.

During the show, it was often uncanny at points when watching Mr Holland on stage, complete with immaculate grey suit, bow tie and bowler hat. For he captured Stan’s voice, facial expressions and hand movements flawlessly, while at the same time, brilliantly recreating several of “the boys” most memorable comic line exchanges. This as you can imagine, received regular appreciative laughs from the audience.

By the end, this production turned out to be a touching and at times, deeply moving look at the depth of love and friendship that existed between the two men. Mr Holland and his co-writer Gail Louw must take enormous credit for creating this show, one that makes you laugh at the enduring genius of the two great comedians, while also glistening the eye with the odd emotional tear, as the final parting of the two old friends closely approaches.

Yet Laurel & Hardy have never really passed away. Even today, they still continue to make you laugh and feel happy inside, when watching their crazy and hilarious routines. That is something to treasure in these often-complex times.

And with this show, Mr Jeffrey Holland’s delightful and moving performance greatly helps in keeping their memory alive.

Lawrence Lettice