Wednesday, 5 February 2020

REVIEW: Eric and Erin at the Duke of York's Theatre

For a whole generation, Morecambe and Wise were British comedy legends and we fell in love with their unique double act in the seventies and early eighties. Over thirty years after we were shocked by Eric Morecambe's death at 58 in 1984, the memory of their greatest sketches and routines continue to be celebrated on TV. On stage this latest West End show at the Duke of York Theatre is an affectionate tribute to many of their best-known gags. While the sketches show their age with references to the stars of the day like Des, Slade, Percy Edwards, Russ Conway and Marjorie Proops, it also celebrates their gentle humour and brilliant timing.

Ian Ashpitel wonderfully recreates the stage presence of Ernie Wise, the little one with short fat hairy legs and a pretend grey toupee. The straight man who feeds Eric and who bears the brunt of many of his putdowns, but he is also the anchor of the double act and constantly demonstrates his well-tuned music hall craft.

Jonty Stephens has all Eric's mannerisms and side glances in a wonderful tribute that creates his physical presence and classic voice. He executes the brown bag ball catch gag brilliantly. Together they demonstrate the obvious trust and affection that the two comics had between them.

It is a joyous nostalgic evening in which the audience continually ripples with laughter of recognition and affection and occasionally bursts into applause of delight at the delivery of a classic punch line as in the show highlight, the Andre Preview Grieg piano sketch line " I'm playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order."

They also give us the sketches in the living room and their bedroom, "He won't sell many ice creams at that speed" and Mr Memory, "Arsenal" as well as Eric's Hamlet, a superb Charlie the vent act and hilariously accompanying Ernie on the Bongos. Of course, music was always a key part of their shows and we see their "Stripper" routine plus their classic duets of "Positive Thinking”, “Following you around" and " Bring me sunshine".

They are supported by West End vocalist Ruthie Henshall who represents all the
guests for their shows who never got paid as well as the interaction with them such in a fabulous "Send in the Clowns " with Eric and Ernie dressed as clowns with balloons to close Act 1 before being allowed to sing unhindered her own song "She used to be mine" in Act 2.

This is classic Morecambe and Wise that brings back wonderful memories of their great stage show which I saw in the seventies in the Gaumont Southampton and at a TV recording at Thames TV in the early eighties. Stephens and Ashpitel have got better since I saw them earlier on the tour at Salisbury Playhouse. The jokes may be old but the delivery feels fresh and sparkles. It reminds us of what made the comics great and that there will never be another act as good as Morecambe and Wise.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★★★

Seat: Seat: Stalls row B | Price of Ticket: £ 49.50
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