Review: Canned Laughter

Grant Stott Andy Gray and Allan Stewart in Canned Laughter
Grant Stott Andy Gray and Allan Stewart in Canned Laughter
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SIR Walter Raleigh described mirth as ‘the music of division’, a sentiment explored by Ed Curtis and Allan Stewart in their new play Canned Laughter.

* * * *

King’s Theatre

Following the fortunes of a bitterly divided comic trio, the story examines themes of shared memory, lost chances, regret and redemption.

Played by King’s panto stalwarts Andy Gray, Stewart and Grant Stott, the group engage in some familiar schtick, albeit for a more mature audience.

In fact, anyone who spent the latter years of the last century enjoying the work of Scotch and Wry, Morecambe and Wise and Eddie Braben, will find the show a charming walk down memory lane.

Gray and Stewart’s characters, in particular, are a thinly veiled tribute to the men who brought us sunshine.

Fortuitously, the pair’s intimate camaraderie, fabulous timing and well honed ability to woo an audience makes for a believable situation and anchors the show.

Where the production falters, however, is the frame that the comedy sketches are wrapped around. An underdeveloped plot, with underdeveloped characters and a fitting but ill implemented ending, feels like the dramatic elements of the plot were a superficial afterthought.

Considering Gray and Stewart have been very much in their character’s shoes during their wide and varied careers, their reticence to go deeper than the stereotypical shorthand of their parts is disappointing. Stott’s bitter third wheel, is also under drawn and underused.

It’s almost as if several last minute cuts were made from the script in order to devote more time to the audience pleasing comic skits.

While this makes good business sense, it detracts from the pathos that balances the humour.

Gabriel Quigley’s brash Margaret gives the whole production an energetic push forward at vital moments but also suffers from under use.

Director and Writer Ed Curtis maintains a confident, upbeat momentum that carries well over the bumps and allows Gray and Stewart much needed leeway to stray from the script.

An audience pleaser that doesn’t quite resolve its underlying conflicts.

Run ends Saturday