Eric and Little Ern
Devised by Ian Ashpitel and Jonty Stephens featuring material from Eddie Braben, Dick Hills and Sid Green
Gilded Balloon Teviot
After the great success of Morecambe a few Fringes ago, featuring a great performance from Bob Golding in the title role, I was a little dubious about yet another recreation of the great comedy duo.
The show begins, as do many biographical shows when the subject is no longer alive, in a hospital bed. Ernie Wise (Ian Ashpitel) is the patient, but the person in the white coat is Eric Morecambe (Jonty Stephens) who predeceased him. It's therefore a fantasy in which Wise reminisces about his career and relives the highlights with his dead partner.
In fact any notion of a storyline is just an excuse to recreate classic pieces from the Morecambe and Wise back catalogue. These are very smoothly joined together so that it appears to be a continuous conversation until suddenly a familiar line appears and you realise that you were in the middle of a sketch all along.
The pair recreate the well-loved entertainers authentically and perform their lines with comic precision. It was performed to a packed house when I saw it and the audience was laughing throughout. Whenever it tries to get serious, it is less successful.
Perhaps I know the originals too well, but when you boil it down you have a very well-performed recreation of someone else's act, and so often I knew exactly what was coming up next. While this reduced some of the laughs for me, there are moments for which, like a favourite song at a gig, some people were waiting, so, for instance, the ice cream van line got a big cheer.
It's all very well done, but real fans will have all this already, performed by the originals, in their video collections. For those who know the great duo less well, this could be an excellent introduction to their comedy.
Reviewer: David Chadderton