Uncles is a show of subtle ambition which only falters due to its enormous potential
Iain Connell and Robert Florence's new live show has an understated set. There's one table, two chairs and two bottles of Budweiser. Embellished anecdotes go back-and-forth across the table. These are two pals shooting the breeze rather than putting the world to rights.
Pathos is light, but the tug of ageing permeates each little story. This is a time in life for bulk ordering Viagra and fearing that a new tub of hair-gel might announce a midlife crisis, and an altogether different tempo from their hit TV show Burnistoun. In Uncles, Connell and Florence turn out more as an old fashioned double act. It is still easy to imagine this as a loose collection of sketches though, and the detail of their storytelling shows they don't need to act scenes to leave a vivid impression. In one, there's an imagined put-upon blacksmith making a suit of armour for Henry VIII. Then, ex-Celtic goalies Pat Bonner and Rab Douglas become detectives in another dimension. The pub setting is no restriction on where their stories can take us.
The anecdote-upon-anecdote is a bit of a two-edged sword though, and the show doesn't really open up enough to become the two-hander this all lends itself to. It has the sort of consistent humour we'd expect from the duo, but there's an idea here worth perfecting. For in its best moments, Uncles recalls legendary sitcoms. Those by Dick Clement and Ian Le Frenais particularly come to mind; the room for dialogue suggests Bob and Terry in The Likely Lads, or Fletch and Godber in Porridge. While characterisation isn't quite as well contrasted in Uncles, the comparison to these classics is not unwarranted.
Uncles plays Theatre Royal, Dumfries, 23 Mar; Nevis Centre, Fort William, 25 Mar; The Stand, Edinburgh, 26 Mar; The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, 31 Mar; Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock, 1 Apr; Gardyne Theatre, Dundee, 6 Apr; Howden Park, Livingston, 7 Apr.