Paul T Davies reviews Eric and Ern, a tribute to Morecombe and Wise playing at the Duke Of York’s Theatre, London.
Eric and Ern
Duke of York’s Theatre, London.
2 February 2020
Book Tickets – 9 Feb
I was once asked that, if I could time travel, what theatrical events would I want to experience? I said the correct things that a Doctor of Theatre should say, to be present at a performance at Shakespeare’s Globe during his lifetime, to assess Laurence Olivier’s stage work first hand, to be at the opening night of Waiting For Godot at the Arts Theatre, etc. But the truth is, I’d would cash all of them in to go back to see ABBA in concert at Wembley Arena in 1979 again, (but closer to the stage this time), and to be at the recording of one of Morecambe and Wise’s legendary Christmas shows. Well, I got the nearest I could get to that last night watching Ian Ashpitel and Jonty Stephens ‘s wonderful tribute to Eric and Ern.
For many people of my generation, Morecambe and Wise are the greatest double act ever, and the key to their success was their deep friendship, and Ashpitel and Stephens are also great friends, and that comes through in their performances. All of the classics are there, everything from the paper bag routine, (which brings the house down), the slapping dance, the shared bed, the stripper, and, joy of joys, “Andre Preview”, which the boys cleverly adapt and put their own slant on to retain it as a double act.
In fact, adapting the sketches pays off very well. An added bonus to these London performances is that the musical guest is the wonderful Ruthie Henshall, with a superb line in self-deprecation, and the Shirley Bassey routine, where Eric and Ern ruined her performance by being incompetent crew members, is adapted beautifully here when Henshall sings Send in the Clowns, and the boys enter as clowns and perform some incompetent balloon work! Her second-half performance of She Used To Be Mine from Waitress is stunning.
There are moments when the sketches could be edited a little, the ventriloquist routine that starts Act Two could be cut in half, something punchier is needed to get the audience straight back into the show post interval. Understandably, there is no play what Ern wrote, the logistics of getting guest stars and more actors probably inhibit that. But these are minor quibbles, as this is joyous nostalgia, recreated by two performers at the top of their comedy game, in which the jokes start thick and fast, and then get faster and thicker! The second London performance at the Duke Of York’s Theatre is on Sunday February 9th.
Eric and Ern will also play Richmond Theatre on 27 Feb. Book Tickets.