The Play What I Wrote
Feature from 2008
Anyone hoping to do any kind of show involving the name of Morecambe and Wise are in for a pretty tough time. Doing a straight ‘look-a-like’ sketch show would no doubt split fans with some arguing that the genius of Eric and Ern just can not be re-created.
This has happened several times on television, with various celebrities re-creating routines, receiving a very mixed review. During one such event, Ronnie Barker was so appalled he actually walked out of the studio!
Doing a ‘life story’ type of show would have to involve someone who knows something about their lives, and again may have fans arguing that portrayed facts are not true or just rumour or why certain parts had been missed out or changed. It’s a no-win situation.
This is probably why it took so long, more than two years, to get this show off the ground and onto the stage. Even with the basic idea, the problem of how to please everyone still remained.
Having managed to get the rights to create a show, producer David Pugh asked comedy duo Sean Foley and Hamish McColl to appear. Initially they declined, but eventually gave in and agreed to the roles.
Another major pull was to be Eddie Braben, originally Eric and Ern’s writer from 1970 onwards, agreed to write new material for the show. Together with director Kenneth Branagh, the show took flight and had its premier on 27th September 2001 at the Everyman Playhouse, Liverpoool.
After two weeks there, it went to the west end and received rave reviews from theatre goers and Morecambe & Wise fans alike.
How did they manage it?
Firstly, they did not opt for a direct impression of the duo, nor did they attempt to tell their life stories, in fact they took an opposite approach.
The show is about two comics who have many parallels to Eric and Ern. One is the joker, always cracking gags, the other a struggling playwright who thinks he is the best at what he does – sound familiar?
In an attempt to keep the act together, Joe (the joker) decides to stage an evening of comedy – a tribute to Morecambe & Wise, to persuade Ben (the playwright) to stay instead of leaving to pursue his writing career.
Ben of course wants no part in it, and refuses to even consider it. Cunningly, Joe makes up a story that one of Ben’s plays is to be put on at the theatre. This of course lures Ben there, eagerly awaiting the premier of his masterpiece, ‘A Tight Squeeze For The Scarlet Pimple’.
Up until this stage, the play had its own life, its own story, with strong links to Eric and Ern in many aspects. As the curtain rises for the play, the show switches beautifully into a brilliant tribute to one of Ern’s plays that often delighted audiences at the end of their television shows.
As Ben struggles to play it straight, Joe interrupts with gags, one-liners and general chaos take over – just like the real thing, back in the heyday of Eric and Ern.
Did I mention the guest star?
As with Morecambe & Wise, the show had a long line of famous guests queuing up to be part of it, reflecting just how popular they still are today. Guests taking part in random stints included Dawn French, Sir Ian McKellan, Ewan McGregor, Roger Moore, Richard E. Grant, Sue Johnston and many many more.
Guest List included..
Richard Wilson, Sue Johnston, Ralph Fiennes, Richard E. Grant, Ewan McGregor, Michael Strake, Simon Callow, Sir Ian McKellen, Jerry Hall, Minnie Driver, George Cole, Johnny Lee Miller, Dawn French, Clive Mantle, David Suchet, Miranda Richardson, Denise Van Outen, Charles Dance, Martin Shaw, Twiggy, Roger Moore, Ioan Gruffudd, Joanna Lumley, Sting, Cilla Black, Kenneth Branagh, Nigel Havers
What was it really like?
Having seen it twice, the first time in London with the original cast, the second in Manchester, I can say I was very, very happily surprised. Like many other fans I was at first dubious, but after the initial first few minutes I began to enjoy it. By the end I was loving every minute.
The play was just fantastic and the final segment, in which the two characters re-produce Bring Me Sunshine, had most of the audience in tears.
© morecambeandwise.com 2008