The highlights from an intimate performance by Jeffrey Holland
“This is show number 174,” Jeffrey Holland proudly tells us as we re-enter the Great Hall for a Question & Answer session. His one-man play …And This Is My Friend Mr Laurel has not long finished, and that number he mentioned now seems striking. That’s 174 hours – over one week’s worth – of standing alone on stage as his idol Stan Laurel, a stream of consciousness pouring from him in the direction of a stricken and mute Oliver Hardy.
It’s a testament to the love and care the show’s star feels towards the comedy duo that his energy and focus remain as strong as ever nearly six years after he first stepped into the iconic bowler hat. And it’s a testament to his dedication and skill that those in attendance murmured and chuckled throughout as, with a nod, a little lean or a trademark confused look, Holland became, unmistakably, Stan Laurel.
Once he’d replaced the bow tie and bowler hat with something more casual for the Q&A, Holland vacated the body of his hero and stepped into the role of Laurel and Hardy mega-fan (or ‘aficionado’ as he prefers to put it).
The questions immediately come thick and fast, and, needing little in the way of prompting, the Hi-de-Hi! star launches into nostalgic anecdotes about seeing the double-act (“my family,” he says) for the first time as a young boy, his favourite skits from their extensive repertoire, and his pride at performing his play in Laurel’s home town of Ulverston. His love and encyclopaedic knowledge of Laurel and Hardy is perhaps as charming as the play itself.
When the time comes to bring things to a close, there seem to be enough questions remaining to last until late in the evening. And, judging by the sincere passion and enthusiasm coming from the stage, Holland would be more than happy, but for the lateness of the hour, to stay and answer them…
John Payne, Marketing Assistant