GIVEN the reverence and affection in which Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise are still held, this theatrical celebration of their double act has to pull off a delicate balancing act.
Eric And Little Ern
King’s Theatre, Glasgow
Incorporating classic material into a nostalgic tribute, Eric and Little Ern might have seemed like it was merely ripping off the duo’s greatest moments, or offering little more than pale imitation. Happily though, Ian Ashpitel and Jonty Stephens have capitalised on strong physical likenesses to their inspirations with a script that blends their most memorable performances and lines with intuitive new writing, lovingly drawing out the relationship between the two men.
In the first half, Ern (Ashpitel) is visited in hospital by the pre-deceased Eric (Stephens), the exposition of their career and friendship skilfully shared in a playlet that seamlessly marries their broadcast output and biographies, offstage and on.
Thus we get Eric acknowledging his reluctance to break America interwoven with the pair innocently jumping into bed together. They give writer Eddie Braben his due, recalling the time they undervalued him, alongside Eric delivering lines so famous that the audience chuckles over the set-up.
In the second half, they reappear for one last grand hurrah in front of the red velvet curtain, and it’s here that the actors really impress. Stephens in particular has mastered every glasses twitch, affronted look and withering putdown of Des O’Connor.
Even microphone problems inspire some perfect ad-libbing in character, with the end result a homage that’s consistently funny and touching throughout.
Seen on 24.11.14