Celebrating Linda Smith, Crucible Studio, Sheffield

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Linda Smith would be surprised and possibly even horrified at how busy Warren Lakin has been in celebrating her since the nation's favourite funny person died in 2006. He was, she stipulated, her "boyfriend" of 23 years (she reserved the word "partner" for business), giving him ample opportunity in their life together – as he did her typing and booked her gigs as well as driving her to them – to observe and appreciate her individuality.

The year she succumbed to ovarian cancer he had co-edited an anthology of her best material I Think The Nurses Are Stealing My Clothes. He has since written a biography Driving Miss Smith, lent his support to The Friends of Linda Smith devoted to charitable work here and abroad, and set up a 30-date tour in which he and a variety of theatrical friends pay tribute in Celebrating Linda Smith. One pound from each ticket sale goes to Ovarian cancer action whose survival rate of 30 per cent has remained worryingly low here in the UK.

Lakin's motives are admirable but the trouble with any attempt to bring Smith's comic genius to a live audience is simply that she was who she was – brilliant, warm, wry, a master of timing and as canny as they come in matching her quirky wit and wisdom to her audience.

I don't know what her many Radio 4 fans – Quorn-eaters, tofu-toasters and all – expect, but the valiant recreation of excerpts from Smith's routines, gags and sketches by Kate Rutter and Mike McCarthy feels awkward and pale in comparison with the unique Linda Smith magic.

The best and funniest bits of this mildly gruesome show are the audio and video clips of Smith herself, and Richard Wetherall's inspired piano accompaniments to Sandi Russell's jazz meanderings.

Not entirely comfortable under a spotlight, Lakin comes across as thoroughly decent – Mole in Wind in the Willows, perhaps – but he's too close to the subject to have mined Smith's archive for the gritty stuff that would balance the evening's content.

You have to buy his book to discover that one reason for Smith's closeness to her mother and sister, which he mentions in the narration, is that she came to loathe her violent, errant father, eventually cutting him out of her life.

It's fun, though, to be reminded of some of her best lines including her reply as to whether it's harder for women than men in the comedy world. "I've nothing to compare it to," she replied. "I can't say 'When I was a man it was much easier, although when I was a giraffe it was much harder because you can't get a microphone lead long enough'."

She was one of the few to appear on all three of the BBC's most popular comedy programmes, though something of her relaxed approach to panel banter or her adept way of making political points gets lost in translation here. But nothing could diminish the pleasure of Smith's spoof on Charlotte Brontë's diary or her ironic send-up of the rules of engagement of Anita Brookner's introspective librarians. Yet no matter how much the show draws on Smith's close connection with Sheffield, "The People's Republic of South Yorkshire", her south-east London background, her obsession with American cable television and her perceptive take on almost any issue of her day, it is no more celebrating Linda Smith than stringing her out.

And please, Warren, no more bucket-shaking. Get the audience to Gift Aid donations to Ovarian cancer action, squeezing an extra 28 pence for each £1 out of the Government. Linda would approve.

At Sheffield Crucible Studio until 5 April (0114 249 6000); at Stratford Circus, East London 12 April (020-8279 1015). Tour to 10 May

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