StoryHouse, Chester – Saturday October 6th 2018 – matinee and evening performances.
Reviewed by Julie Noller
This was a one night performance of which I was lucky enough to see the matinee. I’m a child of the 70’s growing up with repeats of Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise TV shows and especially their Christmas specials – that’s if they were Christmas specials and not just repeated. The StoryHouse did the boys justice, playing music before the show, that may just jog a few memories, jazz numbers alongside big musical numbers.
In their heyday Morecambe and Wise were huge entertainers, and even after some fifty years appear to hold a place in Britain’s comedy heart. They were falling out of favour when I was getting a taste for comedy with satire being the big draw. There was little appetite for slapstick, good old fashioned British sarcasm and wit. Jonty Stephens and Ian Ashpitel should be applauded and cheered to the rafters for not only delivering a cracking tummy wobbling humour-fest, but for bringing back to life the comedic genius of Eric and Ernie. The humour was made for Music Halls, it’s deliciously devilish, simple yet very effective. Laughter is infectious and some of the deep belly laughs travelled across the theatre and had us the audience as well as Eric and Ernie giggling. Those innocent gags told tongue in cheekily have you wondering was a stooge placed in the audience? Surely not but then perhaps? Can such laughter be real? If so it did nothing to dampen the mood and added to all the fun. You watch this performance as if they’ve just walked on stage without a clue of what’s going to happen and yet you know it’s the complete opposite, to look that clueless takes hours of practice. It’s brilliant how those old gags you just know are coming, alongside newer material written by Jonty and Ian are delivered from old favourites such as the over ringing telephone, the Dutch Dancing – many a slapstick moment, Griegs Piano Concerto, not forgetting the brown paper bag (a favourite with many Grandads).
It’s uncanny how alike Eric and Ernie the boys look, how they sound just like they sounded on the television. It was as if I was transported through time and actually sat in a music hall of years gone by. How I giggled at the ventriloquists dummy who just like my son shared his name, blue eyes and blonde hair. As with all Morecambe and Wise shows there is a guest vocalist in the wonderful Becky Neale who has joined this nationwide tour, she sings one of my Mothers favourites Send in the Clowns whilst the boys join her onstage with impeccable comedic timing dressed as clowns to blow up balloons. Such a simple act but one of many delightfully funny moments. Becky impresses us with a rendition of Cilla Blacks You’re My World and is respectfully left alone on stage. Despite not yet getting paid she carries off her show well. I admit to spending the interval attempting and falling to perfect the wonky glasses and headshake of Eric, how did he do it? If you get the chance; then take your Parents, Grandparents or even your children, this is a show that will warm your soul and all ages will enjoy.
Yes some names anyone younger than thirty may not recognise but compared to the gentle slapstick that tickles your funny bones it doesn’t matter. Another typically British institution is the weather, we went into the theatre with the sun hiding and feeling a little chilly after a summer of incredibly high temperatures. But after a solid ninety minutes of laughter and gentle fun poking in typically British fashion, we ended the show with a thoroughly rousing rendition of Bring Me Sunshine, encouraged to join in, how could we refuse? And do you know what? I had to leave the theatre in my sunglasses thanks to Eric and Ernie encouraging the sun out. Jonty and Ian I salute you, Eric and Ernie I salute you. Time to You Tube some old repeats for my children to enjoy.