You might know Les Dennis from Family Fortunes. You might know him from Celebrity Big Brother or his marriage to Amanda Holden. You might know him from Extras and more recently Life Is Too Short, where he played fictionalised versions of himself.
58-year-old Dennis began his career as a comedian working the working men’s clubs of his native Liverpool and the North West, and it is this guise that he reprises in Jigsy, a one man show about a stand-up comic of the same name, coming to the end of his career and looking back on it with a mixture of nostaligia, hope and despair.
Jigsy is returning to the Tobacco Factory Theatre for the second time, after its debut run was performed there last year. On its opening night last night, Dennis came back out for two bows, such was the affection shown towards him by the audience, many of who were seeing this show for the second time.
The Liverpool club circuit is dying, or has already died, but Jigsy persists in playing. He has no choice, and backstage between sets as we wait for the bingo to finish, he talks us through the glory years of the club scene, interspersing memories with jokes, impressions of comedians that he has met along the way, and reflections about what could have been.
It is a tour-de-force performance from Dennis, who is transformed before our eyes into the character he inhabits, sinking pint after pint of mild, coughing a wheezing cough, and pausing for comic effect in all the right places.
Written by Tony Staveacre and directed by Hannah Chissick, particular credit alongside Dennis must also go to set designer Harriet De Winton. The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School graduate’s work was last seen at the Tobacco Factory in The Adventures of Pinocchio and her faded glamour here, with football stickers on the mirror and a box of Space Invaders crisps in one corner, brings the spiralling situation Jigsy finds himself in even more firmly to life.
Dennis’ once smooth-faced blond television star is completely forgotten in Jigsy, as he returns to Bristol from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with a show that will have you yearning for the good old days, if they were good old days at all.
Jigsy is at the Tobacco Factory until September 8. Click here for more information.