The comic genius that was Eric Morecambe lives again thanks to the extraordinary talents of actor Bob Golding.
Eight months after this one-man show first played the Tivoli it is back after touring the nation and winning critical acclaim in the West End. More importantly it has undergone a highly effective makeover. It was extremely good first time around but now it is funnier and more poignant than ever.
Written by Tim Whitnall and directed by Guy Masterson, this affectionate tribute to Morecambe, killed by heart disease at the age 58, finds the multi-talented Golding taking the audience on a journey through the comedian’s life and career.
With uncanny precision he recreates the joyous spirit that made Morecambe a national treasure. Every facial expression, every sound that he utters conspires to conjure up the ghost of one of the greatest entertainers of the 20th century. His long time partner, friend and confidante Ernie Wise is there too, portrayed by a ventriloquist’s dummy. However it is made patently clear that when it came to hard-headed and frequently inspired business decisions it was often ‘Little Ern’ doing the talking.
This cleverly constructed play focuses on Eric Morecambe’s razor-sharp wit and ability to play an audience but also examines the crippling insecurities that drove him. We feel the terror of playing the notorious Glasgow Empire in front of a silent and hostile audience, the devastating feeling of failure when the first Morecambe and Wise TV show dies a death and the wonderful elation of success when things go right.
This show delivers everything the audience could want. All the famous one-liners, the knowing asides about Des O’Connor, Glenda Jackson, Angela Rippon and of course Andre Preven or Preview as Morecambe insisted on calling him.
It also puts the performer into a context by tracing the influences and social background that shaped both Morecambe the man and the on-stage clown. Golding takes us on a remarkable journey that starts with the young Eric Bartholomew’s working class upbringing in pre-war Lancashire, the encouragement he received from his devoted parents when he performed for pies and peas as a child and of course his remarkable 40 year partnership with Ernie Wise.
It reveals too the sheer sweat and slog the duo endured fighting their way to the top and how staying there finally broke Morecambe’s already fragile health. It’s not an easy subject to deal with but somehow this show achieves it without ever wallowing in needless sentimentality.