Performed by Ian Ashpitel & Jonty Stephens
There are few great double acts, and none hold quite the same place in the hearts of the nation as Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise. Proficient in puns, the unfortgettable maestros of timing live on and on and on in An Evening of Eric and Ern.
A veritable pick ‘n’ mix of their best-suited gags for the touring production, the show has a sketch everyone will remember. Even those who didn’t live to see the pair will have some sense of recognition twitched by either Mr Memory or the pair’s duet of Bring Me Sunshine.
Writers and performers Jonty Stephens (Eric) and Ian Ashpitel (Ernie) forgo parts of the narrative dealing with Morecambe’s passing and Wise’s subsequent stint alone for a two-hour run crammed full of humour, song and dance. For fans, there is a deep emotional link. An immense wave of nostalgia fills the theatre as the audience smirk before jokes – already knowing each punchline.
It takes a frosted heart to not be thawed by the sunshine given off by Stephens and Ashpitel. The joy, evident in the faces of the pair, shows that this isn’t so much a job for them but a tribute. The audience interaction, natural flow in delivery and acknowledgement of flubs, technical issues or rowdy fans all work towards a pleasant experience.
Rather than imitate, Ashpitel and Stephens replicate the duo in an astonishing manner; every aspect has been studied, honed and perfected, whether this is visually or vocally but most notably in comic timing and delivery. Their proficiency shines in everything from the tiny facial tics as Stephens askews Morecambe’s signature specs to Ashpitel’s song sequences.
Despite solid performances, a fine selection of routines and charming guest singer Shona White, the production suffers from losing its original narrative. So much heart is lost in the removal of Ernie’s tenure alone, the passing of Eric and the more unique interactions that the pair have. The jaunt down memory lane is enjoyable, but it falls short in offering something new.
An Evening of Eric and Ern is everything you suspect it to be – a magnificent embodiment of Morecambe and Wise’s greatest sketches presented by accomplished performers. It neglects, though, to do little more than this.
Review originally published for The Skinny: