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Eric And Little Ern

Published 18 December 2014

What’s it all about?

The play what Jonty Stephens and Ian Ashpital wrote brings to life the much-loved comedy double act Morecambe and Wise. Packed full of puns, japes and one-liners, the show opens to Ernie in a hospital bed being visited by his deceased friend Eric, and follows the duo as they reminisce on their years as performers before treating audiences in the second half to an example of one of their routines.

Who’s in it?

The production stars the pair who wrote it. Stephens takes on the gangly comb over-sporting Eric, the one with all the jokes, poking fun at his partner, played by Ashpital, who paints an endearing and amusing portrait of the man who wishes he wasn’t the one left behind.

What should I look out for?

The production’s clever use of sound, which heightens every noise, word and movement, and makes Stephens’ crunching on a Granny Smith all that more amusing.

In a nutshell?

Jonty Stephens and Ian Ashpital hit all the right comedy notes in exactly the right order in the return of their Olivier Award nominated show.

What’s being said on Twitter?

@tonypetersss Super evening @St_JamesTheatre for Eric and Little Ern @EricLittleErn Wonderfully funny, but also very poignant.

@JimDOfficial You have just got to see Eric and Little Ern at St James theatre, it’s sensational

Will I like it?

Contrary to the pair’s famous catchphrases, Eric And Little Ern is far from rubbish and is sure to have more than a single fan in its audiences for the duration of its second London run. Both poignant and hilarious, the production intersperses raucous laughter with deep penetrating moments of sadness to create a show that is brimming with nostalgia. Generations who grew up with Morecambe and Wise will adore it, those who didn’t will go home wanting to catch up on all that they missed during the 40 years they reigned as kings of comedy on our television screens.

Eric And Little Ern is playing at the St James Theatre until 11 January. You can book January performances of the production through our discount ticket promotion Get Into London Theatre, with tickets available from just £10. You can also book tickets for the duration of the show’s run through the St James Theatre’s website.

Eric And Little Ern originally played at the Vaudeville Theatre in November 2013 when the following First Night Feature by Matthew Amer was published

As Christmas edges closer, it’s time for Morecambe And Wise. Not on our TV screens, but in the West End.

The key questions with a show like Eric And Little Ern, which brings material made famous on TV screens to the stage, is “Why not just watch the real thing on DVD or online? Does watching two performers impersonate comedy greats add anything?”

Happily the answer is yes.

This live show, written by performers Jonty Stephens (Eric Morecambe) and Ian Ashpitel (Ernie Wise), frames the double act’s famous gags with a hint of biographical detail. Not enough to feel you know the pair’s life story, but just enough to evoke the touching warmth and depth of their relationship.

Opening with Wise hooked up to a heart monitor alone in a hospital bed, the one with the short fat hairy legs sees a vision or ghost of his old partner entering as a doctor. That’s all we need to start of Act 1’s trip down memory lane and Act 2’s ‘final show’.

The brilliant, silly and simple gags take centre stage. “In the BBC canteen,” says Eric, “Don’t eat the Shepherd’s Pie.” “Why not?” asks Ern. “It will make him angry.” Does it help if you know the original contexts? Probably not, the jokes prove to be timeless – and perfectly timed – though the sound of a siren had the man behind me in the audible throes of anticipation. There’s more innuendo than I remember from a childhood of Christmas specials. But in the hands of Eric and Ern, it never feels crude, rather cheeky.

Stephens and Ashpitel are as close to Eric and Ern as you’re likely to get. Despite having the mannerisms and relationship down pat, their performances never feel like impersonations, so completely do they inhabit the characters.

This is not a show that is going to win any prizes for setting new dramatic benchmarks or stretching the boundaries of directorial flare. It is pure, unadulterated, nostalgia-tinged entertainment, as warming as a crackling pub fire and as gentle as a new mother’s caress.

It wouldn’t be too much of a plot spoiler to tell you that Eric And Little Ern ends with a rendition of Bring Me Sunshine. As the song promises, the show did bring me laughter, all the while.

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