Tuesday, April 23

Eric and Ern – The Lowry

Anytime there is a poll on the public’s favourite comedy act, or a look back at the TV of yesteryear, one double act will feature, without fail – Morecambe and Wise. Icons of their era, they’ve left a legacy of classic comedy that is adored to this day.

So, whilst modern-day comedians may attempt to push boundaries with their material, it’s a brave soul that attempts to re-visit the most-loved sketches of these titans of British comedy.

Ian Ashpitel (as Ernie) and Jonty Stephens (as Eric) are those souls, having developed tonight’s variety show from their stage play of the duo’s enduring partnership. But it is quickly obvious that even the most die-hard fans will be breathing a big sigh of relief that the material is in very safe, and very funny hands.

Soaking the audience with a great big bucketful of warm and fuzzy nostalgia, the pair’s portrayals are so precise – down to the exact mannerisms that both are famous for – that, within minutes, you are almost convinced you are watching the originals.

Both are so skilled in their delivery, displaying the same camaraderie below the surface of the sketches’ squabbles and straight-man/clown dynamic that made Morecambe and Wise such a successful pairing. They exude such a genuine love for their craft, each other and the audience that you can’t help but smile throughout.

The sketches themselves are well adapted where they need to be. The Breakfast routine, too impractical for the stage, becomes a comedy burlesque with dressing gowns. That famous rendition of Grieg’s piano concerto works well round the minor inconvenience of Andre Previn having died in 2019, although the final punchline is almost ruined by an over-eager audience member.

The pair are joined periodically by an excellent singer, Sinead Wall, including a memorable (and all the more poignant, given his recent passing) rendition of Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Send in the Clowns’ where our mischievous pair emerge behind her, dressed as – surprise, surprise – clowns and almost undo our hapless soloist with some disastrous balloon modelling.

Tonight’s audience is in raptures as we re-visit other greatest hits; the paper bag trick, the ventriloquist’s dummy and slapping dance that never quite goes Eric’s way to great comedic effect.

As well as being almost a word, move and note-perfect delivery of each sketch, it is a reminder of the sheer volume of work left behind by the duo and that, one or two references to Des O’Conner aside, a welcome journey through a timeless body of material that has our cross-generational crowd in hysterics throughout.

Ultimately, it’s too much to ask for anyone to ever truly replicate the magic of Morecambe and Wise but, on a freezing cold night in Salford, the sunshine was well and truly brought once again to one very happy audience.

‘Eric and Ern’ is on at the Lowry till 12th December. For full tour dates and tickets, visit Tour 2021 – www.ericandlittleern.co.uk

Reviewer: Lou Steggals

Reviewed: 6th December 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★