Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith, and Steve Pemberton take Royston Vasey on the road in a new League of Gentlemen show that’s as weird and wonderful as ever.
For any avid Doctor Who fan, those names above should be instantly familiar. Reece Shearsmith appeared in Sleep No More and An Adventure in Space and Time. Steve Pemberton popped up in Silence in the Library. And, of course, Mark Gatiss has been a recurring presence since the show came back in 2005. But before all that, these three actors (plus writer Jeremy Dyson) were best known for The League of Gentlemen. This dark, twisted comedy set in the town of Royston Vasey ran for three series (and a film) until 2005. Then, after twelve(ty) years away, they returned for three anniversary specials just before Christmas 2017. Now, the boys are letting the town’s residents loose once again in a nationwide theatre tour. Can these classic sketches and characters produce the same black magic on stage as they did on screen?
Considering the sheer scale of the tour, The League of Gentlemen Live Again! begins in surprisingly stripped back style. With most of the big name characters held back until the later half, the first act is left to serve as a ‘greatest hits’ compilation of the group’s most memorable moments. Rather aptly, it all kicks off with a performance from dysfunctional theatre company Legz Akimbo. From there, it’s a whistle-stop tour of old favourites from the likes of Pam Doove, to Pop the lecherous Greek. There’s even time for a game of “Go Johnny Go Go Go Go” in between. Gatiss, Shearsmith, and Pemberton perform in tuxedos throughout, with only the odd hat or prop to signal the difference between sketches. It’s a testament to the quality of the writing and the actors that the jokes hit just as hard, even without switching appearance.
A Local Show for Local People
It’s all change after the interval though (quite literally!). Act Two picks up where last year’s anniversary specials left off and the real carnival begins. The tuxedos are gone – now we’re treated to full costume changes as well as some brand new, unseen-on-screen material. Royston Vasey may be over 20 years old now, but its inhabitants feel as fresh and as funny as ever. Herr Lipp provides some awkward audience participation (and ingenious German wordplay), Reverend Bernice Woodall offers up her unique brand of advice, and Les McQueen from Creme Brulée swings by for a very special performance. Best of all though, some questions that have been left hanging since December are finally given answers. For instance: what happened next after pen-loving Pauline died? And did Tubbs manage to escape Papa Lazarou’s wife mine and reunite with Edward…?
As with any sketch-style show, certain characters naturally resonate more than others and garner the bigger laughs. But to say that the rest was hit-or-miss would be a huge disservice – rather, it’s more a question of just how high each high can reach! The League of Gentlemen Live Again! is almost two hours of non-stop comedy gold and will leave you roaring in your seats. Some of it’s old, some of it’s new, but it’s brilliantly bonkers from start to finish. Gatiss, Shearsmith, Pemberton, and Dyson have produced a proper love letter to their fans in this celebration of all things League. It truly is a local show for local people – but even if you’re new to the action, there should be plenty for you here as well.
With nothing further yet announced, who knows what the future holds for the residents of Royston Vasey? But even if this is the last we ever see of them, The League of Gentlemen Live Again! ensures they’ll be going out with a bang. Catch them while you can in a local town near you!