IT’S a gutsy actor – and I don’t refer to the fake beer belly he wears beneath a scruffy tuxedo – who staggers onto a stage decked out like the dowdy green room of a Liverpool bingo hall.
Assembly Rooms (Venue 20)
Les Dennis tempts unkind comparisons with his own career by playing a washed-up funnyman – but all credit to him, he’s excellent in this role, even if the play proves lightweight.
It’s 1997, and veteran jobbing stand-up Jigsy – based on real comic Jackie Hamilton – is backstage between sets lamenting the demise of the 1970s working men’s club circuit while reminiscing about a Liverpool long gone and the comedy legends he once knew (and feels he should have been ranked among).
Red-faced, overweight and wheezing, he captures your heart, especially because – and this all hinges on Dennis’s comedic chops, sharpened as a youngster on the same circuit Jigsy pines for – he can still tell ’em, be it ribald one-liners or impersonations of greats from Ken Dodd to Tommy Cooper.
The script struggles to elicit much more than a mix of pity and admiration. A deeper, more dynamic character study could have been heart-breaking. But as a tragicomic love letter to a halcyon age of British comedy, Jigsy bears recommending.
• Until 26 August