Ginger Hibiscus | Ginger Hibiscus |REVIEW: Eric and Little Ern
Ginger Hibiscus |REVIEW: Eric and Little Ern
Ginger Hibiscus |REVIEW: Eric and Little Ern
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19 Dec REVIEW: Eric and Little Ern at the St James Theatre

One of the most successful British comedy double acts in history, it’s fair to say that Morecambe and Wise, collectively, were a pair of national icons. Making an indelible mark on television comedy, they performed over more than 40 years, with just a brief interlude for National Service during World War II, up until the death of Eric Morecambe. Thirty years on, their partnership is revived in Eric and Little Ern, now showing at the St James Theatre.

Time now for a confession. Born after the death of Morecambe, I never actually saw the Morecambe and Wise show. It puts me in the slightly strange position of reviewing a show which is, in a lot of ways, a tribute to something that I never appreciated in its original form. But what I’ve found, through watching the show, and using YouTube to do a spot of research, is just how much of what Morecambe and Wise did has become a really normal, everyday part of our culture, and the extent to which their work has permeated my life without me even realising it. I have distinct memories of my uncle doing the paper bag trick – where Morecambe would throw an imaginary object up and “catch” it in a paper bag with a satisfying crunch. I remember family friends doing the glasses-waggle, people talking about, “the play what I wrote,” and the response of, “you can say that again,” being to do exactly that. They’re memories that I hold with affection, much like the memories held by generations that watched Morecambe and Wise on TV in their heyday, and it’s this sense of nostalgia that Eric and Little Ern taps into, to great effect.

There’s a temptation to say that the comedy is not all that original and consequently not all that funny. But saying that would totally miss the point, and actually it’s not true. The reason the show feels old fashioned and a little bit dated is that it’s written and designed to look and feel like a Morecambe and Wise show, with Morecambe and Wise jokes, being told by Morecambe and Wise. And let’s face it, when the real Eric and Ern did it, they were the original; they were such a significant part of the comedy of that era that they are utterly inextricable from it.

Act I is set in the hospital room of Ernie Wiseman, profoundly unwell and coming to the end of his life, being visited by an imaginary Eric. Looking back on their career together, it’s a scene that feels like it does justice to their relationship; in equal parts tenderly affectionate, and mocking of eachother, the show sets the act in the hospital room but it could really have been one of their sets. There’s a bed. There’s a sofa. Almost like a perfect eulogy.

Creators and performers Ian Ashpitel and Jonty Stephens are outstanding in their delivery. Without commenting on how well they become their characters, their charisma and stage presence are captivating, their excellent timing resulting in everyone in the auditorium laughing like crazy. Facing reality, I’m not the target audience for Eric and Little Ern, but it’s one that I enjoyed nevertheless. And I have a strong suspicion that anyone with an attachment to Morecambe and Wise will love it.

Venue: St James Theatre
Dates: 16 December 2014 – 11 January 2015
For tickets and information:

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
Okay, fine, but how many stars do you give it? Click here