Laurel and Hardy @ Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

This new production of Tom McGrath's Scottish classic Laurel and Hardy is a magical, theatrical and touching tribute to a legendary duo

Review by Dominic Corr | 16 Jun 2022
  • Laurel and Hardy @ The Lyceum, Edinburgh

Life’s too short not to laugh, and although many champions of the silent film era were witty, zany and legendary in their own right, one pair indisputably paved the way on the industry’s uneven cobbles. Tom McGrath’s Scottish classic, Laurel & Hardy, is a tender tribute to the iconic comedy duo. First written and performed nearly twenty years ago, the play returns this month to the Lyceum’s stage – and proves to be just as funny as it was when it debuted. 

Barnaby Power and Steven McNicoll played Laurel and Hardy in 2005, and have reunited to embody the roles once more. Their uncanny ability to capture both the physicality and emotional integrity of the legendary comedians and filmmakers is captivating. The fact that they are now closer in age to the characters they play adds another layer of poignance to this production, skillfully drawn out by director Tony Cownie. 

The show sees the pair waking up together in a vast and peculiar space, before it dawns on them that this must be the afterlife. It looks different to what many might suspect; an old music hall staled with time, filled with grey tones and a dusty piano. There’s a haunting familiarity to Neil Murray’s clever set design, elegantly lit by Tina MacHugh. 

Power’s floundering movements and McNicoll’s tie fumbles and eye-rolls (choreographed expertly by Rita Henderson) excellently capture Laurel and Hardy’s physicality, recalling some of the pair’s most infamous scenes. The production is a display of breathtaking theatricality, with musical director Jon Beales presence as a pianist onstage only adding to the sense of magic. 

A ghost story of sorts, McGrath’s Laurel and Hardy has a bittersweet sting as the pair come closer to their final act. Overall, this show is a marvellously touching production from a splendidly creative ensemble, paying just homage to a culture-defining duo. 

This week's performances of Laurel and Hardy have been cancelled due to an incidence of COVID-19 in the company. Performances are scheduled to resume 21-25 June