Comedy – it’s elementary

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Hanging a brand on the phrase Ha Ha means you had best serve up some laughs for expectant theatre audiences. Luckily, Ben Langley’s Ha Ha shows are doing just that, earning him a loyal fan base. We spoke to the writer, director and actor ahead of tomorrow night’s show in Durham.

YEARS spent honing his skills as a performer on the cobbled streets of Covent Garden have taught Ben Langley a thing or two about holding an audience’s attention.

 A skill that he’s now translated to the stage for his series of popular Ha Ha shows.

 The target of his latest parody is Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Watson in Ha Ha Holmes – Hound of the Blistervilles – a nod and a wink to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles.

 Ben, who writes, directs and performs in the shows, explains: “I would say to audiences not to come along expecting a sitty down evening where they watch a nice pleasant play. Our shows are certainly an event from start to finish.

 “It’s a wonderful parody of two of the most famous characters in literature. I was always aware of the stories and there are the classic Sherlock Holmes elements in there like the smoking gun, the fog and Victorian England.

 “It’s a send up of the style of the Sherlock Holmes genre with a wink to the Hound of the Baskervilles.”

 Back in 2009, Ha Ha Holmes’ big brother, Ha Ha Hamlet, played at the Edinburgh Festival and toured the UK receiving five star reviews. Such was its success, it was soon followed by Ha Ha Hitler.

 Ha Ha Holmes, which plays at Durham Gala Theatre tomorrow night, has been hailed as the funniest and tightest Ha Ha to date.

 Creator Ben is joined on stage by Ha Ha stalwarts Andrew Fettes and Fenton Gray and the trio’s chemistry and audience interaction has been winning them rave reviews.

 Ben says: “We have tried to develop the Ha Ha brand as there are no big names in the show. We don’t expect people to buy tickets for a show with three idiots they’ve never heard of.

 “Slowly and surely we have built up a solid fan base.

 “I’ve never seen a show or style of theatre that’s anything like the style we do. We are on stage when the audience come in. We welcome them and it’s all very nice then slowly we start taking the mickey out of people coming in, so you start getting laughs before the show even starts.

 “It’s a marvellous theatrical device as when the show begins the audience feel like they already know you.”

 The Ha Ha shows have become an unexpected hit for Ben who has been treading the boards for years.

 After doing panto in Somerset for six years, it was suggested that he should try his hand at something he could perform during the year.

 He penned Ha Ha Hamlet for a laugh and it sold out, leading to Ha Ha Homicide, a spoof of Agatha Christie. The alliterative brand was soon picked up by West End producer Jamie Wilson whose financial backing is giving audiences around the country the chance to have their ribs tickled by Ben & Co,

 Seasoned theatre actor Ben, who has worked as a street performer at London’s Covent Garden for 17 years, says it’s a drama dream come true to be at the helm of his own show.

 Speaking about his street performances, he said: “For about ten years it was my sole source of income. It teaches you a lot, such as keeping an eye on your audience and reacting to them. That’s helped with Ha Ha. Our show is so fast, we don’t dilly dally about. Every line has to be a laugh. In street theatre if you have a gap, that could be £50 walking away.”