Canned Laughter review at the Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy – ‘clever star vehicle’
Playing to the strength of its performers, Canned Laughter does not need its title’s device to get its audiences in stitches. Director and writer Ed Curtis has taken the trio of singing impressionist Allan Stewart, comic actor Andy Gray and radio show presenter Grant Stott and found the elements that make have made them a resounding hit at the Edinburgh King’s pantomime. With the addition of Gabriel Quigley, their rapport is reproduced in a nicely dramatic package.
The plot revolves around the fictional 1970s comedy trio Wee Three. Only Stewart’s Alec is performing today and Gray’s Gus turns up in his dressing room one matinee – with the ghost of Stott’s Rory on his shoulder – to pitch a TV film he has scripted, telling the Wee Three story.
As a device, it highlights Gray and Stewart’s electric on-stage rapport as it flashes back to the days after Alec and Gus unceremoniously dropped Rory. Gray’s trademark lugubriousness and ability to flirt with an audience glistens, while Stewart slips effortlessly between impressions.
Stott provides a serious shift into the dramatic. He is believable when portraying Rory’s decline into alcoholism and frames the narrative as he slips between times. Gabriel Quigley keeps the focus crisp as Maggie, Rory’s sister who became Wee Three’s agent. Francis O’Connor’s dressing room set – cleverly lit by Ben Cracknell – changes artfully.
Gray finds his serious side as the regretful Gus, while Stewart creates a particularly nasty character in Alex, as the drama dwells on the nature of fame and guilt. There is room for more such depth, but as a comedy vehicle, this purrs along sweetly.