Rumour has it that the Queen delayed her Christmas dinner until she’d seen the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special 1997 – a show which boasted over 25 million viewers. So if you love this play (and you will) you’ll be in good company!
Eric Morecambe – together with his comic partner, Ernie Wise – kept British audiences laughing from 1941 until his death in 1984, aged 58. The laughter, however, did not die with him. Craig Urbani plays Morecambe, superlatively, in this one-man play that has you grinning from ear to ear throughout, when you aren’t laughing out loud.
The Theatre on The Bay is always a treat. It’s just the right size – small enough to feel cosy, big enough to keep claustrophobia at bay, and the art deco foyer pre-show was abuzz with an audience that, age-wise, may well have been regular watchers of the record-breaking BBC show, Morecambe and Wise. Despite my being too young to remember them, or the show, I didn’t feel out of place or miss the nuances of the play.
Written by Tim Withnall, Morecambe chronicles the comedian’s 40 year career – his partnership with Eric Wise cleverly (and expertly) chronicled using a puppet – including a guffaw-inducing dance routine, his family life (his portrayal of Morecambe’s mother is brilliant), his relationship with his parents, his OBE and his health issues. It’s a gentle story, filled with the witticisms and gags of a bygone comedic era.
The stage is simple – a stage within a stage, a box of props, and a couch. After YouTubing some clips of the original show, my estimation of Urbani’s portrayal sky-rockets. He’s superb, from the wiggling of the iconic glasses to the rock in the paper bag trick.
Channelling Morecambe’s perfectly-timed comedy and ad-libbing, Urbani captured a giggling audience member, and in doing so, the rest of us, with some stellar on-the-spot improvisation. He doesn’t drop an accent, except the Welsh one. This he – hilariously – admits to never getting right: “It always comes out Middle Eastern/Pakistani.”
Go and watch it, then you’ll understand. It truly does bring sunshine to a misty, wintery Cape Town. It’s like a good cup of tea in a beautiful porcelain cup on a cold day. With a large scone, just out of the oven, complete with strawberry jam and clotted cream.
Morecambe runs at the Theatre on the Bay from 10 to 27 June 2015.