JAMIE Rees bursts into the spotlight, a man possessed. He’s looking for a friend but can’t quite remember his name. Then again, he only met him a couple of hours ago...
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Assembly Hall, The Mound
In this simple and ever so poignant opening scene the tragedy of one of Britain’s most loved comic actors is laid bare.
If Charles Hawtrey were alive today, he would be 100 years old, and to mark that milestone Torch Theatre Company bring Dave Ainsworth’s Oh Hello! to the Assembly Hall on The Mound.
Hawtrey will forever be remembered as a Carry On star, in truth he was so much more than a stalwart of the saucy film franchise.
He learned from the great Will Hay, was directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and featured in the Ealing Studios classic Passport to Pimlico – all of which sat badly with him when faced with the working practises of Gerald Thomas and Peter Rogers.
Set predominantly in his front room – the actor himself would likely have called it his parlour – the piece is rich in pathos and beautifully played by Rees, who captures every little vocal and facial nuance of the tormented star.
It charts his decline into addiction – alcohol is his only friend - with tales of drinking too much on set, of his relationship with Kenneth Williams, a friend turned nemesis, and of his love for his dementia-stricken mother.
By turns bitchy, vulnerable and lonely, Rees’ Hawtrey rants with an ever present drink in hand.
That said, as he fights desperately for top billing to compensate for the meagre £4000 a film he received for the Carry Ons, Oh Hello! plays down his bile, sketching a sympathetic picture of a man lost in the world.
An outrageously camp man regarded by some as ‘an oddity’ and by others as ‘a pervert’, there are occasional lines in Ainsworth’s script that reveal he is only scratching the surface of this troubled soul, and that just makes his story all the more tragic.
Sold out for the rest of its run, Carry On queueing for returns and watch out for additional performances.
Until 31 August