Monday, 14 March 2016

Canned Laughter

Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy
Three stars

“It's a night out to you,” says Allan Stewart's old school comedian Alec Munro to the audience at one point in Ed Curtis' dissection of the not so funny side of showbiz, co-written with Stewart. “It's a career to me.” Given that Stewart is playing alongside his regular real life pantomime foils Andy Gray and Grant Stott as the other two thirds of unreconstructed comedy trio Wee Three, Gus and Rory, it's a line that works on a multitude of levels.

Here is a bittersweet backstage drama of back-stabbing ambition in which a now solo Alec is forced to face up to the ghosts of his past, but which is played by a cast so familiar to the pop cultural mainstream that for an audience on intimate terms with their oeuvre they must at times seem indistinguishable from their comic personas. Yet, even as the trio rattle through a set of routines that would knock audiences dead from the Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club to the London Palladium, such exercises in top light entertainment are sucker punches for the fall-outs inbetween.

Told through a series of flashbacks and audience asides against a backdrop of framed music hall style posters and a dressing room mirror that opens out to become a stage within a stage, Curtis' production for producers Neil Laidlaw and Gavin Klein makes the most of his actors' already formidable onstage chemistry. Alec's avuncular but ruthless voice of experience is offset by Gus' hapless galumph, played with hang-dog precision by Gray, while Stott's enthusiastic amateur Rory has stars in his eyes but lacks the chops to transcend his puppy-dog keenness into bill-topping material.

Gabriel Quigley plays Maggie, Rory's sister, Gus' fleeting romantic interest and an increasingly hard-nosed manager and producer with a no-nonsense abruptness that keeps the boys in check for a while until family must come first. If the final reunion soft soaps things somewhat in favour of a feelgood ending that confirms that the show must go on whatever the cost, it's only because that's what entertainment expects.

The Herald, March 14th 2015

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