Theatre review: Canned Laughter
Comic trio prove that fake laughs are the last thing they need
We’re so used to seeing him in full make-up, wig and tights, that when Allan Stewart walks onto the stage in a suit, it’s a little disorientating. Well at least for fans of the Edinburgh King’s pantomime, who will have a soft spot for Stewart and his Christmas chums, Andy Gray and Grant Stott. Both of whom are here too, equally sharp-suited and ready to prove they can be funny at other times of the year.
The holy trinity of Stewart, Gray and Stott is a finely-tuned comic machine that knows exactly when to throw a long look our way, pause for that extra beat to get the desired effect, or cut each other dead with an acerbic slight. They’re less adept at plucking at our heartstrings, which they attempt here in Canned Laughter with a modicum of success.
It’s 1973, and the ‘Wee Three’ comedy trio is on the bumpy road from local social clubs to prime time TV. Francis O’Connor’s cleverly designed set transports them, and us, between the dressing room and various stages, where they either nail it or bomb – although from where we’re sitting, it’s laughter all the way.
When their big break finally comes, however, the men find that friendship and fame aren’t necessarily compatible. Betrayal, guilt and disillusionment follow, handled with greatest aplomb by stage stalwart Gray who can flip from buffoonery to gravitas in the flick of a switch.
In amongst all this testosterone, is tough but tender Gabriel Quigley as Maggie, sister to Stott, lover to Gray and ultimately the one who puts Stewart in his place.
If the moments of poignancy fall just short of the mark, the comedy rarely misses the target - and Stott’s joke about award winners may well be the best of the year.