Laurel And Hardy by Tom McGrath
A PLAY ON WORDS
Review by Adrian Scott
In February I went to see the Tom McGrath play "Laurel And Hardy," at the Clair Hall, Haywards Heath. The story begins with Neil Bromley [Stan Laurel] and Simon Lloyd [Oliver Hardy] in the "afterlife," from which they both return to tell the story of their lives. They interact with each other, playing different people they knew and worked with - such as Arthur Jefferson [Stan's dad]; Emily Norvell Hardy [Ollie's mother]; Hal Roach, Jean Harlow, Stan and Ollie's wives, and so on. I found it fascinating , interesting and very clever, how one of them, Stan, would play himself in the Music Hall as a 16 year old; and Ollie play Arthur, his dad, who caught him on stage in his dad's trousers, coat and hat. Then, for a different scene, Ollie would play himself then, Hal Roach played by Stan renewing Ollie's contract. It worked so well, just the two of them together. It was not just the lives of the two great comedians, also they did gags from their films, like the "hat swapping" gag - which got many laughs; the trouser ripping, shin kicking, eye poking, handkerchief ripping routine; the "three sodas" routine from Men O' War; "fresh fish" from Towed in a Hole; the Jean Harlow love letter from Beau Hunks; the "long-distance phone call" gag from The Fixer Uppers - and more.
Simon Lloyd [Oliver Hardy] and Neil Bromley [Stan Laurel]
They both sang The Trail Of The Lonesome Pine - with Stan's voice changing from deep to a high voice, and the dance routine, also from Way Out West, was spot on. I was amazed how the audience reacted to simple moves and gestures: such as the disappointment or frustration in Ollie's eyes, to tie twiddle and embarrassment; to Stan's smile, cry, or head scratch. They really made the audience laugh. The actors' timing was spot on, and the likeness to Stan and Babe come across very well. One scene I found of interest was Ollie getting a shave, and becoming Babe Hardy after the barber patted his cheeks and called him "Babe." Another was the name change to "Laurel" - from the idea of a Roman General - thinking "Jefferson" was too long a name.
Simon Lloyd [Oliver Hardy] , Adrian Scott and Neil Bromley [Stan Laurel]
After the play I was fortunate to go back stage with Phil Newman - the set and costumes designer -to meet Neil Bromley and Simon Lloyd to take some photos. Phil was saying how important it was to get the costumes right, down to small details like the tear in Stan's jacket - knowing there would be fans watching. I think a play like this would be great for anyone who is studying silent films, or just wanting to know more about Laurel and Hardy. It turned out to be enjoyable, funny and, over all, well presented. I can recommend it to others.
LAUREL AND HARDY PLAY by Tom McGrath is touring the SOUTH EAST of England.
GO HERE FOR DETAILS OF VENUES: http://www.chalkfoot.org.uk/laurelandhardy.html
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