BWW Review: IAN ASHPITEL AND JONTY STEPHENS AS ERIC AND ERN, Richmond Theatre
Morecambe and Wise have been a part of my life since childhood. I've spent countless hours sat watching their shows, looking up their sketches on YouTube and making sure I watch any documentaries. I've always felt disappointed that I never had the chance to see my favourite comedians live on stage.
It takes a brave pair to take on two of the greatest comedians in British history, but Ashpitel and Stephens do an outstanding job. The duo have created a play, Eric and Little Ern which has enjoyed successful runs in the West End and a UK tour as well as a stand-up comedy act, An Evening with Eric and Ern.
While it's important to look the part, and both Ashpitel and Stephens bear more than a passing resemblance to Eric and Ern, it's their act which really cements them as one of the best tributes to Morecambe and Wise. They capture their mannerisms impeccably and their real life long friendship (they've known each other since studying together at the Birmingham School of Speech and Drama 37 years ago) ensures that the act doesn't feel forced.
Just as Morecambe and Wise did during their TV show, a special guest is brought onstage - at the show at Richmond Theatre, it was Sinead Wall who brilliantly performed 'Send In The Clowns' while Ashpitel and Stephens, in full clown costume, attempted to create balloon animals behind her.
Of course included in the evening are some of Morecambe and Wise's most famous sketches including Grieg's Piano Concerto (minus André Previn), Mr Memory, the paper bag routine and the ventriloquist dummy act. All of these get howls of laughter from the audience which is testament not only to the comedic brilliance of Morecambe and Wise to still resonate with people more than 36 years after their last show together, but also to Ashpitel and Stephens' ability to do the material justice.
As an avid Morecambe and Wise fan, even though I knew lots of the punch lines, I still laughed as hard as the day I first heard them. Ashpitel and Stephens create a lovely evening full of nostalgia and laughs. And although I never did get to see Morecambe and Wise live, Ian and Jonty certainly left me feeling like I had.
Photo Credit: Paul Coltas