Immortalised by a franchise whose comedy is an iconic staple of British culture, the life and strife of the late Charles Hawtrey is reborn onto the stage by the eerily talented Jamie Rees. Bottle in hand and catchphrases at the ready, the master of comic timing finally gets top billing.
Heard before he is seen, the familiar voice of Charles Hawtrey floats into the room instantly inducing chuckles throughout the packed venue. The under-appreciated star of Carry On confides the inner workings of life on set, talks of his unrecognised contributions to the franchise, all whilst sipping on the elephant in the room - his, eventually fatal, struggle with alcoholism.
Although the number of drinks consumed is lost in conversation, as if nattering to an old friend, the subtlety of Peter Doran’s direction on the matter is not missed. The reputation of Hawtrey’s drinking habit often proceeds him, but in this gradually subdued performance it is addressed in a sombre and touching way that addresses the desperately isolated person behind the problem.
From the first “Oh Hello!” to the last, Rees’ spot on impersonation feels all to real, unintentionally invoking star struck giggles with every witty line. Never wavering from his uncanny portrayal, Rees is able to carry the magnitude of the late star from pompous pride through to his maddeningly solitary end.
Til 31 Aug, 1.40pm. £10-£12.