In August 2014, actor Jeffrey Holland (best known as Spike Dixon from Hi De Hi! and James Twelvetrees from You Rang M’Lord, back in the 1980’s), fulfilled an ambition – to play the late, great Stan Laurel. Holland played his idol in a one act play which he co-wrote with Gail Louw, at Upstairs at the Gatehouse and from there the demand for the show has become immense. Two runs at the Edinburgh festival and a UK-wide tour later and the show entitled ‘And This is My Friend Mr Laurel’ continues to thrive.
I can speak personally for the piece, having been in the audience at The Mill Arts Centre in Banbury in 2015. It is a delightful biopic where one must imagine that Holland as Laurel, is talking to Oliver Hardy, who is bed-ridden in the play,following a stroke. Considering that he does not have another actor to play off, the emotions that Holland conveys are astoundingly moving and real. It’s not all doom and gloom, despite the chosen time period, and the impersonation that one of this country’s long-standing treasures is able to portray is testimony to his huge talent.
The show is going to a range of venues this year which include Brookside Theatre in London, Jermyn Street in London, Grand Theatre in Swansea and The Williamson Hall in Thetford. Visit www.jeffreyholland.co.uk where tour dates should be updated, soon. If you miss this master piece, that’ll be ‘another fine mess’!