Morecambe, Duchess Theatre, London
Wednesday 16 December 2009
Bob Golding's uncanny impersonation in this one-man show is a great feat of empathy as well as mimicry. He knows how Eric Morecambe's dodgy heart ticked as well as the tics of style that were his trademark. So he's able to transmit a sense of the psychological and professional background to some of the comic mannerisms – the who-put-the-glue-in-the-ginger-beer, goofy stalling-for-time grin (perfected whenever he had to out-stare the camera during cock-ups in the early days of television) or the compulsive specs-waggling playfulness that had him joking with everyone from the one-armed commissionaire at Broadcasting House (joshingly refused a complimentary ticket to a recording because he wouldn't be able to clap) to Luton Town FC (who, if he were to have a coronary on the stands, would at least be able to pick up something before the end of the season). He thought he was being a pal to everyone, but the feeling grows here that being a constant caution was a way of fending off real intimacy. For that, you have occasionally to let the other person dictate the terms of the encounter.
The show worked best for me whenever it most acknowledged the darkness that complicates the somewhat coercive "Bring Me Sunshine", happy-campers jollity of Morecambe. The sheer pressure of being the record-breaking Christmas Day hit on an annual basis must have made Eric think that turkeys had it easier at that time of year. Regular medicinal swigs of whisky merely make worse the condition they are supposed to medicate. There's a superb sequence at the end where Golding's Eric, in Velcro heaven, transforms himself into the parodic, Platonic ideal of the topper-and-tails song-and-dance man, whilst crooning a song that makes the obsessive desire to appease the god of Light Entertainment sound like one of more self-destructive forms of false idolatry.
If I were Mrs Wise, I would rather object to the fact that my husband had been reduced to a glove puppet: for a start, it goes against the grain of everything that is said about him. He was a necessity; he was generosity itself; and when Eddie Braben started to write their scripts at the height of their fame, he achieved the unique parity of being of equal status as the groan-inducing partner who thinks he's funny and pivotal and isn't, to hilarious effect.
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