The funniest thing on six legs

 

Frightening sight:  Andrew Fettes (left) and Ben Langley relax on their patented Dartmoor in a box as they contemplate how to solve the mystery of the beast of the Blistervilles at Lichfield Garrick

Ha Ha Holmes

Lichfield Garrick

*****

THE Ha Ha Boys are back in town and just as funny as ever with their take on Sherlock Holmes.

After Ha Ha Hamlet and Ha Ha Hitler it is the beast of the Blistervilles that comes in for the treatment in what could be described as a loose – loose as in hardly connected - adaptation of Conan Doyle's Dartmoor drama about the Baskervilles and their dog.

Ben Langley is a well known panto star and has been a Covent Garden street performer for 17 years. He is the writer, director and driving force of the Ha Ha Boys and apart from producing some witty scripts he also has that ability to make audiences laugh as soon as he walks on stage - something Tommy Cooper had and, closer to home, Alan Briscoe of Dandy.

Langley is Holmes, complete with deerstalker and calabash pipe while his long time sidekick Andrew Fettes is Dr Watson. Fettes, incidentally, has just completed a West End run of Steptoe and Son playing Albert, the Wilfred Bramble character.

Ha Ha sets are quite ingenious with a few boxes transforming into everything from a circus tent to a ready laid table, coach and four to country mansion, 221b Baker Street to The Great Grimpen Mire.

Every other part  - seven of them – is played by West End star Fenton Gray – look out for his eulogy given by Sister Blodwyn Feckme. Old jokes but beautifully delivered.

They don't make women like they used to . . . or could that be Fenton Gray as Fanny Stapleton in Sir Charles Blisterville's wig and hat  . . . all part of the mystery for Ben Langley as Sherlock

Gray is, or if he adds the Ha Ha Boys to his CV, was, much in demand as Ko Ko among other G&S parts including appearing at Saddlers Wells with D'Oyly Carte. He has also appeared in Les Miserables in the West End and was Gus in the West End production of Cats.

All Ha Ha shows move at a frantic pace except this one does have a 55 second pause, I won't tell you why, with absolutely nothing happening and the three cast members just standing around waiting with the only sound the audience laughing . . . at absolutely nothing.

Meanwhile adding a silent movie atmosphere to proceedings and becoming the band for the songs is pianist Rob Eckland and new addition to the Ha Ha personnel which does add a new dimension with incidental music which in turn creates incidental jokes.

To explain the story would probably take longer than the show itself but all you have to remember is that all the goodies and all the baddies are played by Fenton Gray so whenever he appears you know to cheer or boo . . . or both.

Finally for anyone thinking of going to see the Ha Ha Boys don't wear anything distinctive, never look interested or indeed look up whenever they are on the lookout for volunteers and don't whatever you do, turn up as one of the last of the audience – unless you like cheering, applause and celebrity status.

Anything involving the Ha Ha Boys is lunacy with a script – they stick to it as w'ell some of the time – it is theatrical anarchy but it is very skilfully and cleverly done, the funniest thing on six legs. Its sort of slapstick with an A-level, and anyone who fails to laugh should have someone check their pulse. It runs to Saturday, April 9.

Roger Clarke 

Home Lichfield Garrick  Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre