Monday, April 22

Eric & Ern – Floral Pavilion

How do you replicate the diamond duo of Morecombe and Wise, held in Britain’s comedy consciousness with an abundance of affection? Can the captivating chemistry between them ever be replicated? Watching actors Jonty Stephens and Ian Ashpitel on stage, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in a time-warp!

They are exceptionally uncanny. Playing all the right notes in the right order, Eric & Ern manages to imitate the inimitable. It is unmissable. Not only do they look incredibly convincing as the renowned double-act, their mannerisms and timing mesh together to create a live show that captures the essence of Morecombe and Wise’s magic – nothing is lost. It is a true feat of necromancy.

With high expectations from fans and newbies alike, we’re greeted by Stephens and Ashpitel opening as if they were doing the live TV show. Performing this demands energy, and lots of it. Without dropping a beat, the actors run for two hours (including a short interval) through some of the most famous sketches. There is an air of eager anticipation in the theatre as the audience awaits their favourite whilst simultaneously sitting stunned at the ethereal likeness.

It seemed impossible for such an iconic partnership to be recreated. However, Stephens and Ashpitel have known each other for decades before bringing Eric & Ern back to life, and the warmth of their friendship permeates everything they do. This is where Eric & Ern succeed where others may falter – you cannot simply act that kind of chemistry. The strength of friendship these sketches require to be delivered convincingly is as much an homage to Morecombe and Wise as the comedic content itself.

It is packed with laughs. From the renowned ‘Arsenal’ and Mr Memory gags to the ice-cream sketch and Andre Preview, the show runs like a greatest hits album. There are, of course, also frequent references to Des O’Connor (or Desperate O’Connor as he is known here) who was a regular, self-deprecating guest on the Morecombe and Wise show and arguably turned the duo into a trio when he featured.

A special mention must be made to Sinead Wall whose performance was as exceptional as Stephens and Ashpitel’s. Oozing glamour, her voice rang out with a timeless authority. Providing a sidekick to the comedy duo, she also showcased her acting skills which really came to the fore during ‘Send in the Clowns’.

Filled with iconic moments, Eric & Ern – Stephens and Ashpitel – provided an evening of old-fashioned, feel-good escapism. They were timeless. With last night’s performance holding particular poignancy, at the end it was announced by co-producer Martin Clarkson that we had just watched the final performance of this comedy gem. The mixed emotion of the audience reverberated. Whilst some of this may have been the impact of reliving nostalgic moments, it’s undeniable that Stephens and Ashpitel themselves will also be missed. The whole audience was on its feet clapping at the earliest opportunity with a gusto of gratefulness.

It is painfully easy to forget they are acting when you watch Jonty Stephens and Ian Ashpitel. For that reason, you leave this performance knowing you’ve witnessed some modern greats perform – if you get the chance to see them again, do so.

Reviewer: Ezzy LaBelle

Reviewed: 30th April 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★