A lifetime’s love of Laurel & Hardy lies behind Jeffrey Holland’s one-man show.
…And This Is My Friend Mr Laurel, which plays The Hawth, Crawley, on Thursday, October 22, at 7.45pm, sees Jeffrey (Hi-de-Hi) offer an amusing and poignant reflection on friendship, memories and a couple of remarkable lives.
Set in the bedroom of a sick Oliver Hardy, the show takes place during Laurel’s visit to the dying man. Recounting their past success as act Laurel & Hardy, the show is a touching look at one of the great cinematic partnerships of the last century.
“I have been a fan of Laurel & Hardy all my life,” says Jeffrey. “I started as a very small boy when I was growing up in the 1950s going to the Saturday-morning picture shows. There was always Laurel & Hardy on, and if one week there wasn’t, I was completely bereft.”
When the BBC started to show Laurel & Hardy in the 1970s, for Jeffrey it was a moment of rediscovery and an important one for a young actor. He dates the desire to create a one-man show on the subject back 35 years: “I just had to wait to be the right age!”
The fascination is in the character of Stan Laurel: “People just don’t know he was the business brains behind the duo. Stan worked with the writers, and he virtually directed. They let him get on with it. At the end of the day, Oliver Hardy went off to the golf course, but Stan went back into the cutting room. He did all that.”
And he was quite some character too, very much the ladies’ man: “He married four different women, one of them three times, another of them twice. There is a lovely line he says in the piece that he married some of them twice just to make sure he wasn’t wrong the first time!”
Jeffrey co-wrote the piece with Gail Luow.
“The bulk of the text is by Gail, and she is amazing. She has written several plays, and she likes to write for solo performers. She writes the way people speak. She is so very economical with words, and I am marvellously in awe of her writing. I have contributed several vignettes and put all the comedy in. At various points, I put my hat on and you get both Laurel and Hardy from me.
“It’s set in Oliver Hardy’s bedroom at the end of his life. Oliver Hardy had a massive stroke which felled him completely. He wasn’t able to move or speak and he just lay in bed until he eventually died which was terribly sad. This is set in an imaginary bedroom where Stan reminisces about the lives they had led.”
Jeffrey Holland has become a well-known face in some of the UK’s most iconic television shows, including Dixon of Dock Green, Are You Being Served?, Crossroads, Dad’s Army and It Ain’t Half Hot Mum.
His breakthrough role was as Spike Dixon, the camp comic at the Maplin’s Holiday Camp, in Hi-de-Hi! in which he appeared with Paul Shane and Su Pollard. He was also a regular performer in Russ Abbot’s Madhouse before going on to appear once again with Paul Shane and Su Pollard in You Rang, M’Lord? and Oh, Doctor Beeching!
This is, however, his first one-man show: “I have got my wife to keep me company, and I don’t feel at all alone when I am out there on stage!”
Tickets on 01293 553636 or www.hawth.co.uk.
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