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Big Daddy vs Giant Haystacks (Edinburgh Fringe)

This play at Assembly George Square 'brings back to grunting, grappling life two hugely popular behemoths and the bizarre world they bestrode'

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Here's a wonderfully raucous nostalgia jag for all lovers of television wrestling back in the days when Shirley Crabtree, aka Big Daddy, from Halifax unleashed his fore-arm smashes and belly butts on the even huger Martin Ruanne, aka Giant Haystacks, from Salford.

Brian Mitchell and Joseph Nixon's unashamedly populist play is a series of sketches combining close-up sweaty ring action (and it's very close-up in the tiny Box venue at Assembly), cultural history ranging from Tiswas to World of Sport, and the story of how Daddy met Frank Sinatra and Haystacks hob-nobbed with Paul McCartney.

In just about an hour, we get the life stories of the wrestlers, played with enormous zest by Ross Gurney-Randall and David Mounfield, and a string of lightning character vignettes, all done by the same duo: Greg Dyke and John Birt removing the sport from the schedules, to howls of protest; Princess Margaret revealing her sister was a fan; Jackie Pallo, the "pure" wrestler, dissing his colleagues; Dickie Davies (spot-on impression) anchoring the ITV coverage; Chris Tarrant throwing water over the audience (not really).

It's not going to win a Fringe First, but the show's a delightful excuse to go intellectual slumming and take a break from award-winning plays about rape, child abuse and political oppression.

Big Daddy – and yes, the soubriquet is taken from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – gets the crowd going in his red togs and gold topper with the chant of "Easy, easy," and that's just how this surprise nugget goes down. The crucial question, "Is it fixed?" earns the ultimate answer: "It's a business!" How it ceased to be a business is not the least of the show's salient arguments.


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