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Written by Tim Whitnall
At The Dukes, Lancaster
Everybody loved the iconic comedian Eric Morecambe. With his perfect partner, Ernie Wise their Christmas TV specials were awaited in my home almost as eagerly as Santa and watched by over 28 million people. And they never disappointed. Here, in his home town of Morecambe, we erected a statue on the prom in his honour.
So when he died, at the top of his game in 1984 after taking 6 rapturous curtain calls at the Roses Theatre in Tewkesbury he left a vast legacy of warmth and personality - catchphrases, gestures and wit that, a quarter of a century later, are still instantly recognisable.
I've seen comic Lee Mack borrow spectacles from audience members to do his Eric Morecambe - wearing them cockeyed and wiggling them in the way I can instantly picture.
Tim Whitnall's script excercises and develops Bob Golding's projection of that picture exponentially.
And that's what happens - so strong is my recollection of Eric that these little tricks suddenly remind me of just how he looked and moved and I smile.
Watching Bob Golding play Morecambe becomes an uncanny experience where the man on the stage plays in my eyes and the footage of the man I recall from the TV plays in my mind's eye. And I'm responding to both at the same time, and mixing them up.
Sometimes the images veer toward collision. When Ernie Wise is represented as a ventriloquist's dummy I prickle that Ernie is no dummy. But Bob is careful with his dummy and quick to paint in the colours of their partnership. The 50-50 ego-lessness of it all. The fact that Ernie was earning more for his performances when they met. And you think: well, how else could they have brought Ernie in, as an actual presence, short of kidnapping him? It's genius.
It's a legacy that's crying to be tapped, I understand now he shows it to us. Morecambe FC have their band of supporters who all come dressed as Eric, with glasses, cap, raincoat, scarf and pipe. Here was one of the Erics on the stage. Hurray!!
He did all the Eric stuff, lots of gags and moves delivering us through a life story where lightning earthy wit
I won't retell the story. You can read the facts and some of the very smart jokes about Des O'Connor in wikipedia.
Except: I may have heard that Morecambe was a Bevan Boy who did his National Service on his hands and knees down a mineshaft hacking at a coalface but I had no mental image of that. I do now and though it's only an image of a man on all fours on an eerily-lit stage. The understanding that this was where his heart first began to fail deepens my sympathy and respect for the real Eric. And the fake one. It's genius.
Is it mawkish? Sentimental? Possibly. Definitely. But it's done so well I just get into it. The sheer energy and drive of the performance (both performances) catapults us along.
Everyone knows Eric drove himself hard. When Bob delivers an Eric line I see Eric in my mind and the difference in the power of delivery is chutzpah, self-belief. Well, Eric was Eric, and Bob is something else.
The staging is simple and effective. the proscenium arch and curtain, from which Eric was wont to sidle. The white top hat on the trunk and white shoes under the couch hint silently through the second act at a sparkling finale and I wonder how he will change Ernie's suit...
It's a solid and well-crafted piece of work. Director Guy Masterson spotted Bob's physical ability to impersonate Eric Morecambe, encouraged it, and, 12 years later, built a show around it. Eric's wife said he used to start worrying about the Xmas Special in June. That's a 24:1 ratio so these guys have paid their dues.
So, it's a great show. I adored Morecambe and Wise. It's about the one thing me and my dad had in common. I went to see this show with my 86 year old mum, who absolutely loved it. We had a great time and Bob received a standing ovation from a packed house.
I imagine that bringing that show to this town he probably had a car waiting out the back door with the engine running. But they pulled it off. Phew!
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