An Evening of Eric and Ern – Review – Hull New Theatre
By Karl Hornsey, March 2019
There can few more quintessentially British experiences than an audience of theatregoers turning out in their droves to see a tribute to a comedy double act that hit the height of their fame more than 40 years ago. And that’s part of the magic of An Evening of Eric and Ern, which earned a well-deserved standing ovation at Hull New Theatre on Saturday evening.
The main thing, though, is that this is seriously good entertainment in its own right. Throw in the genius and spirit of Morecambe & Wise, and it’s hard to see how anyone, of any age, can fail to be cheered by the wonderful work of Jonty Stephens and Ian Ashpitel as the iconic duo. Having honed the act over years, going back the best part of 20 years, including slots at the Edinburgh Fringe and in the West End, they clearly know what works with regards to this national institution.
Other than perhaps the incomparable Tommy Cooper, it’s hard to imagine any other figures from light entertainment over the past half century justifying such a show as this, but Stephens and Ashpitel filled the boots of the comic legends, and it’s also hard to see how anyone could do it better.
Close your eyes and even the voices are uncannily reminiscent of Eric and Ern, and the mannerisms are spot on. It’s not just a case of turning up on stage and wiggling your glasses. Stephens has Eric off to a tee, and Ashpitel taps into that beautiful balance that Ernie had, demonstrating a stunning pomposity while still maintaining his lovable, childish charm.
“Hits all the right notes”
The timeless, almost simplistic comedy of Morecambe & Wise, is here for all to see and enjoy, and the sheer joy that comes from ‘being’ their comedy heroes shines through. The evening is essentially one long nostalgia-fest, including in-gags from the 1970s, with ‘Eric & Ern’ regaling the audience with jokes (many of them decidedly and joyously lame), sketches (including the ‘Andrew Preview’ one) and musical interludes courtesy of the much put-upon singer Becky Neale, who plays the stooge in one outstanding rendition of ‘Send in the Clowns’.
There are times when the performances are so on the mark and so realistic that you find yourself almost thinking you’re watching the real thing, and there’s no doubt this is nearest any of us could ever hope to get to seeing the legendary duo in the flesh. When an audience, consisting of young children and not-so-young adults, can join together to enjoy an evening of family entertainment, then you know that something just works. This homage more than just works, it hits all of the right notes (in the right order) and brings a little sunshine into the lives of all who are lucky enough to be there.