Willie And Sebastian
3 stars ***
Gilded Balloon (Venue 14)
TWO YEARS ago, they won a Fringe First for Kiss Me Honey Honey, Philip Meeks’s bizarre and hilarious comedy about two middle-aged men devastated by divorce, who find themselves living in the same dodgy Edinburgh rooming-house. And this year Grant Stott and Andy Gray are back, deploying the comedy chemistry of their famous annual partnership in the Edinburgh King’s Christmas panto in this new Ian Pattison play based on the strange, true Soho tale of Willie Donaldson and Sebastian Horsley – the one an ageing former theatre producer and epic drinker, the other a famous modern-day dandy – and how they fell out over a woman, the model Rachel Garley, played here by the gorgeous Michelle Gallagher.
There’s plenty here to entertain Gray and Stott’s fans for an hour, not least a study-cum-living-room set, in Donaldson’s flat, that pleasingly combines squalor and faded grandeur, and Gray’s vintage performance as Donaldson, which, despite a certain uneasiness of accent, scales tremendous heights of wrecked dignity, sheer desperation, and last-gasp reslience.
Stott’s version of Horsley, though, often seems more like a send-up than a performance, even while he captures some of Horsley’s loving goodwill towards both Willie and Rachel. And despite some beautiful precision acting from Gallagher as Rachel, the comedy flags as the story approaches its relatively tragic end. There may be a great play to be written about Willie and Sebastian, in other words; but despite many entertaining moments, this is not quite it.