Okay, let’s cut to the chase. If you like watching Morecambe and Wise then you will enjoy going to see ‘Eric and Little Ern’.
I never got to see Eric and Ernie on stage, and ‘only’ had the pleasure of watching them perform on television, although that is said by many to be their most successful period. The humour from the pair, and of course with credit to their writer Eddie Braben, made millions laugh, and with video recordings still does.
So how do the creators and performers of ‘Eric and Little Ern’, Jonty Stephens (Eric) and Ian Ashpitel (Ernie), recreate on stage something that is so dear to our hearts, and are they successful?
With just a few days before the start of their West End run at the Vaudeville Theatre, I went to see ‘Eric and Little Ern’ while they were on tour. This wasn’t just about reviewing a show, but also about a personal fulfilment, wanting to see whether someone else could recreate some of those magical moments.
Being in the audience I have two barriers that I have to surmount. The first is that there isn’t anyone who will ever be able to take the place of the real Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise, and to be honest it is probably best that way. The second is that most of my viewing of Eric and Ernie has been with a ‘close-up’ view of them on television, seeing their facial expressions and mannerisms being a significant part of the humour. I therefore have to accept that Morecambe and Wise will not be recreated on stage in a perfect way, it can’t happen, but that’s okay.
In ‘Eric and Little Ern’, it is plain to see from the very first scene that Stephens and Ashpitel provide the audience with a glimpse of what the original act was like. They have clearly worked tirelessly in creating not just a physical likeness but also in how Morecamble and Wise worked together, particularly with their timing, which is crucial in comedy-partnership routines.
With an audience waiting in eager anticipation, what plays out in front of us is a show which includes many of the famous comedy lines, which has the desired effect of being very funny and making you laugh. Delivered superbly is, “I’m playing all the right notes – but not necessarily in the right order.”
As well as reproducing snippets of dialogue from past clips of Morecambe and Wise, Stephens and Ashpitel have also injected some of their own material, and they have done a very good job in achieving a good balance of old and new. The show of ‘Eric and Little Ern’ is essentially split into two parts; Act 1 provides a ‘background story’, which also includes many comedy moments, while Act 2 is primarily ‘on stage’. Personally I would have liked to have seen just a little more in the style of Act 2, as it gives the audience the opportunity to see Stephens and Ashpitel ‘up close’, and interacting more with the audience.
My overall impression of Jonty Stephens and Ian Ashpitel in ‘Eric and Little Ern’, is that they really are very good at what they do, and that is to recreate some of the humorous moments from two of our nation’s favourites.
Thursday 21st November 2013