Eric and Little Ern

steve ullathorne
Eric and Little Ern

This review was of the show's 2013 West End run

Ian Ashpitel and Jonty Stephens’s pleasant Morecambe and Wise tribute show was a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer. Now it’s been promoted – probably a splash beyond its means – as it settles in to the West End for a seasonal stint.

It’s a lo-fi affair that weaves a host of Eric and Ern’s classic lines and routines into a sweetly understated scenario in which a recently deceased Ernie Wise (Ashpitel) is greeted in the afterlife by the puckish spectre of his former partner in crime, Eric Morecambe (Stephens). They reminisce; they bicker; they have a bit of a sing-song; that’s kind of it.

I’m probably too young or too curmudgeonly to really enjoy the light comedy titans’ loveable silliness, smartly-constructed wordplay and old fashioned music hall charm. As such, I was maybe over-sensitive to the show’s weaknesses: there’s too much unnecessary biographical information crammed in, and there’s an overlong first half followed by a weirdly perfunctory (half an hour) second.

It’s certainly no ‘The Play What I Wrote’ - the last big Morcambe and Wise show - but it’s put together with love, care and craftsmanship, and ticket prices certainly aren’t too onerous by West End standards. Most importantly, judging from the laughter in the room, it’s very nearly as pleasurable to Morecamble and Wise fans as rewatching the ’76 Christmas special for the millionth time.

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