I first became aware of Howard Coggins and Stu McLaughlin shortly after I joined Bristol Old Vic almost a decade ago. At that stage, I didn’t realise they were an act. I would see them each wondering around the building, Stu a towering young man with the sort of ears you want to pin back, whereas Howard was on the short side and, dare I say, could be described as slightly corpulent.
I was soon informed by Stu’s ex-teacher that he was a performer of outstanding talent, who could just as easily make a successful career as a musician, or actor. As for Howard, he remained a bit of an enigma, that is until the day I filed into the smallest performance space in the theatre to watch Living Spit present The Six Wives of Henry VIII. And there they were, together on stage. Well, actually, there was no stage. What followed was one of the most original and hilarious shows I have ever seen. The script was brilliantly written, the humour infectious, the music rendered to perfection and, most impressive of all is how Howard’s extraordinary energy levels complemented Stu’s laid-back presence.
I was hooked, but I didn’t want to give the impression I was some kind of latent groupie, and so it took me some time before I even, fleetingly, introduced myself.
Since then, I have watched almost every one of their shows, and the remarkable thing is they never disappointment, whether they are performing in the café at Yeo Valley Dairies or in more conventional theatres.
I was so delighted to be able to book them for their latest show, More Than a Feeline, Living Spit’s very own take on Puss in Boots, but for adults, of course. I was equally delighted when my wife announced she had bought us tickets to see Howard and Stu in Adolf and Winston at The Pound in Corsham. Such a sensitive subject for comedy but, yet again, they pulled it off with aplomb.
Within a couple of weeks of that, I received news that Howard had been diagnosed with a serious enough illness to make it impossible for him to commit to performing in and touring with More Than A Feeline. For a young man with boundless energy, I found the news devastating. Of course, all of us who know Howard, either personally or through his work, wish him the very best and, above all, hope to see him back on stage in the not too distant future.
No man could fill Howard’s boots and, therefore, the wonderful Beverly Rudd will take over from him. When I say she could be considered the female equivalent of Howard, I must stress I am talking about her acting abilities!
Please do not miss this opportunity to see Living Spit and allow Howard to feel the love while he struggles with his health.
Written by Alan Wright, Trowbridge Town Hall Director.
Tickets for More Than a Feline are available here.