Eric and Ern


Broadway World

By Laura Jones, 17 December 2014

One of my earliest memories is sitting on my grandfather's lap watching Morecambe and Wise on one of his VHS tapes. Very quickly his favourite comedians became my favourite comedians, and they still are to this day.
I'm a fan of modern comics such as Lee Evans and Michael McIntyre, but not even these can knock Morecambe and Wise off the top spot for me.

Eric and Little Ern is now playing at the St James Theatre, following a successful nationwide tour. Jonty Stephens and Ian Ashpital as Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise respectively, are able to bring back the magic of the double act which makes for a night of nostalgia and hilarious comedy.

The show, which premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, originally played at the Vaudeville Theatre in 2013, finishing its run in early 2014, before it embarked on a nationwide tour and now finally returning to the London stage.

The production begins at the end, with Ernie in a hospital bed following his heart attack in 1999 where he is visited by his old partner Eric. Given that by 1999, Morecambe had been dead for 15 years after suffering from a heart attack himself just after coming off stage at the Rose Theatre, Tewkesbury, the audience realises that he has come to reminisce with Ernie when he needs him most, during his final moments.
The pair re-enact some of the comedy duo's best loved sketches and gags, including the famous Grieg's piano concerto sketch, Morecambe's classic "He's not going to sell much ice cream going at that speed, is he," when seeing an ambulance whizz by the window and the paper bag routine (which I've tried and failed to master).
The innocence of the comedy is not compromised and both Stephens and Ashpital, while resembling both comics, give very credible impressions. It is clear that Stephens and Ashpital have a very close relationship echoing that of the real Morecambe and Wise and the way that they bounce off each other is so natural, it is a joy to witness. Their famous gags are broken up with biographical stories about Morecambe and Wise's career and personal lives, making the production a very emotional one.

Director Owen Lewis ensures the production never loses speed and laughs can be heard throughout the entire performance. Morecambe and Wise's legacy continues to hold strong through the generations, more than 30 years after the duo last performed together.
Although I may not have had the chance to see Morecambe and Wise live, Eric and Little Ern offered me the opportunity to at least pretend I had, even if just for an evening.