Theatre Review: AN EVENING OF ERIC AND ERN AT CHRISTMAS – The Lowry, Salford

An Evening With Eric and Ern

AN EVENING OF ERIC AND ERN AT CHRISTMAS is a brilliant homage to the much-loved comedy act of Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise

Back in the 1970s, a Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special was as much as a TV tradition as the Queen’s speech. Drawing in audiences of more than 20 million a time, the comedy duo’s end-of-year Christmas shows became some of the highest-rated TV programmes of the era. More than 30 years later, TV may have changed but the nation’s love for Morecambe and Wise clearly hasn’t.

Jonty Stephens and Ian Ashpitel’s AN EVENING OF ERIC AND ERN AT CHRISTMAS is a brilliant homage to the much-loved comedy act of Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise. Combining classic comedy sketches with new material in the style of Eddie Braben, the pair recreate what it might have been like to see Morecambe and Wise live on stage, evoking memories of times when families would huddle around the telly to watch the fantastic Christmas specials.

Skipping onto the stage from behind a red curtain, it helps that doppelganger duo Stephens and Ashpitel not only look like Morecambe and Wise but sound like them too. Their physical and vocal resemblance is uncanny, Ashpitel mimicking Ernie’s ‘straight man’ poise and delivery down to a tee, while Stephens is the perfect embodiment of Eric as he wiggles his glasses and delivers snort-filled chuckles. The duo has been performing as Morecambe and Wise for over five years and have really honed their act to perfection, mimicking not only their comedy but also their remarkable onstage chemistry and enduring friendship.

The two-hour show is packed full of renditions of famous comedy sketches, from André Previn’s famous shambolic piano concerto to the incompetent Mr Memory who is unable to remember anything without unsubtle prompting from Ernie. The biggest laughs are reserved for Eric’s simple yet hilarious paper bag sketch, as well as the section involving Rebecca Neale – the show’s own special musical guest – who delivers a moving version of Sondheim’s SEND IN THE CLOWNS as Eric and Ernie dressed up as clowns, blow up giant balloons behind her.

And it is the music which leaves us on a high, as Stephens and Ashpitel perfectly perform PRETTY BABY, POSITIVE THINKING, FOLLOWING YOU AROUND and of course, BRING ME SUNSHINE, much to the delight of the audience.

As expected, AN EVENING OF ERIC AND ERN AT CHRISTMAS doesn’t really offer anything new in terms of comedy but neither is it supposed to. This is a nostalgic trip down memory lane and a perfect Christmas treat for fans old and new – just like the Morecambe and Wise Christmas TV show.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

AN EVENING OF ERIC AND ERN AT CHRISTMAS runs at The Lowry, Salford until 6 January 2019