Growing up Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were always staples in our home. When my mother was little she had spent hour after hour at her Aunty Jessie's watching old Laurel and Hardy films and developed a love for them, so naturally they were a huge part of me and my brother's life. There has always been something I have found oddly comforting about the two men on screen; whether it is Ollie's black bowler hat or the goofy look on Stan's face as he begins to sob, whenever I sit back and watch them the world instantly seems like a better place. Sadly their's is a kind of humour that you just don't see anymore so when I heard that The Festival Theatre was screening "A Night of Laurel & Hardy" with a live pianist accompaniment I jumped at the chance to buy tickets and organised a mother-daughter date.
The screening consisted of four of the duos silents films; Bacon Grabbers, Do Detectives Think, The Second 100 Years and Liberty. Each one was more hilarious than the last and each one I would highly recommend. The plots in each film varied from the pair playing detectives to them portraying escaped fugitives with all the hi jinx that you would expect from a Laurel and Hardy classic. Now although I have grown up watching these comic actors I had never actually seen one of their silent movies, only the talkies! In fact, silent films are not something I have had a lot of experience with at all so this was completely new to me, so I was ecstatic when it became clear that none of the humour was lost with the absence of dialogue.
My personal highlight of the four films was during the film Liberty; the story of two prison escapees who, during their escape, find themselves at the top of a partially completed skyscraper. Tottering across the thin beams, hundreds of feet above the busy American street, struggling to keep their balance and a hold of their shoes as they try to reach safety. This was all funny enough but was only made more hilarious by my mother, who was crying with laughter but also grasping onto the armrest with one hand and covering her eyes with the other. One thing you should know about my mum, she is terrified of heights so when Stan Laurel was hanging upside down from the one of the beams or when Ollie Hardy tripped and threatened to fall over the edge she would jump and grab onto my arm, only making me laugh even harder... I know, I'm evil!
During the interval I looked around the auditorium at the audience around me and the one thing that surprised me the most was the range of ages that were sat around me. I could hear the chuckles from the young children a few rows behind me laughing with their parents while looking over to the older couple holding hands and talking quietly and smiling. It was lovely to see that such classic comedy can still pull in such a varied and versatile audience.
Making this experience even more memorable is the live accompaniment from Forrester Clifton Pyke who plays along to each film from a Grand Piano placed at the front of the stage. During the interval while he is sitting alone a young boy shyly sits down next to him and the pair begin talking. I can only imagine what they talk about but I cannot help but think, and hope, that the boy has an interest in music and is asking the pianist about being a musician and the craft. You never know maybe one day that young boy will be sitting at a similar piano, on a similar stage living his dream.
Inevitably "The End" appeared after the four films had come to an end and the lights became to come up. As the lights rose, so did the audience's applause which was only heightened when Forrester Clifton Pyke stood from his Piano and took his bows. As we all began to spill out onto the street it was hard to miss the feeling of positivity and happiness that was coming from the people around me. It was a feeling that you can only get after experience true classic gold.