[Originally posted on On:Yorkshire Magazine: http://www.on-magazine.co.uk/arts/yorkshire-theatre/morecambe-review-york-royal/]
With countless re-runs of their classic Christmas show, documentaries about their lives, two plays and a fictional film about them, I am sure that we all feel that we really know Morecambe and Wise.
The return of Morecambe to the stage since its first nationwide tour in 2011 is testament to the love that the British public still has for the duo. To this day they remain one of the best-loved British comedy acts – and the number of people in the Morecambe audience singing along and finishing the lines of classic sketches shows the enduring love of their work.
The key to Morecambe and Wise’s success was their closeness. They worked best as a team and their chemistry allowed them to bounce off each other on stage to bring joy to everyone who saw them perform. At first I wondered how a play focussing on the life of just one half of the duo would work, but Morecambe is much more than a one-man performance.
Bob Goulding’s performance is fantastic. His portrayal of Eric includes just enough of his quirks, his famous glasses-waggling and hilarious facial expressions, to evoke memories of the comedian but it is not a straight impression of him by any means. Not only does Goulding have the task of playing one of his and many other comedic actors’ idols, but he also has a mammoth 54 additional characters to play, from Eric’s parents and booking agents to Ernie!
Morecambe opens poignantly with a darkened stage and snippets of news readers announcing Eric’s death. It sets the scene for a play that will celebrate his life whilst showing the effect his love of performing had on his health.
A whistle-stop tour of Eric’s life as a performer ensues and we go from the thought-provoking opening scene to a young Eric singing and dancing animatedly in one of his performance classes. The play continues to shift quickly between funny and emotional scenes. The audience erupts with laughter at Goulding’s interpretations of classic Morecambe and Wise sketches and, in the next second, is stunned into silence when they see the moments he suffered with heart problems during or directly after performances.
morecambe theatre royalEric’s classic way of engaging with his audience with numerous asides during his performances is a method used by Goulding throughout. The ad lib feel of the lines directed to the audience further connects you to him which makes the darker moments of the play even more emotional.
With the quick costume changes and very clever use of props, the play moves seamlessly from one part of Eric’s life to another meaning that you keep up with the storyline despite the number of years covered in one short play.
What also evokes a true likeness to Morecambe and Wise’s own performances is the ‘appearance’ of so many characters (all played by Goulding) along with snippets of singing, dancing, sketches and stand-up interspersed throughout as it gives the play a real variety show feel.
Whether you are a massive Morecambe and Wise fan or only know a little about the iconic duo, you are guaranteed to enjoy this compelling performance. I am also certain that I will not be the only one who leaves the theatre inspired to watch as many videos of their original performances as I can find!