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The Play What I Wrote – The Lowry, Salford

Reviewer: James Mac

Writers: Hamish McColl, Eddie Brabben, Sean Foley
Director: Sean Foley

Over eighty years since Morecambe and Wise’s first appearance as a double act and just over twenty years since this piece debuted at the Liverpool Everyman, this wonderful production by Hamish McColl, Eddie Brabben and Sean Foley, is revived, under the exquisite direction of the afore-mentioned Foley. With a trio of electrically charged comedic actors at the helm, it’s no wonder this Olivier award winning production has the Lowry theatre in stitches from start to finish. If you’re looking for the perfect way to escape the bleak mid-winter, or even mark the end of your Dry Jan, then look no further.

Providing a masterclass in theatrical comedy, this cast are a shining example that Morecambe and Wise’s uniquely sophisticated daftness really is an art form in itself… and one that they have down to a tee. Paying homage to the comedy duo’s slapstick routines and sketches, they attack the word play and physicality throughout, with gusto and grandeur. Thom Tuck and Dennis Herdman, like Morecambe and Wise themselves, are a match made in heaven. Tuck’s highly strung thespian is the perfect ‘straight man’, delectably camp yet dry, allowing the anarchic Herdman (his contrasting counterpart) the chance to shine, relishing in his gangly and elasticated brutishness, creating the perfect partnership. From the off, their individual dynamism concocts a comedic formula, allowing an undeniable, inevitably fun evening at the theatre. And let’s face, after a very Gray January, it really couldn’t come at a better time!

Joining the riotous duo as the stooge like fall guy, is Mitesh Soni, who is a comedic force to be reckoned with. He is a truly hilarious actor, with naturally funny bones, revelling in a range of diverse guises. A real highlight every time he graces the stage. Complete with a surprise star turn feature, adding a spontaneous, off-the-cuff feel, this piece never loses pace. The mystery guest on this occasion (no spoilers here) is certainly no disappointment, a legendary staple in British theatre and TV, who basks in being the butt of the jokes with nuance and class. Each actor, guest star included, brings their own flare. Their fast-paced fluidity and perfectly timed comedic chaos is a well-oiled machine that grasps you in the palm of its hand, culminating in a beautifully tender and poignant final scene from Tuck and Herdman, paying tribute to everyone’s favourite comedy duo. Closely followed by the Chuckle Brothers, obviously.

In today’s modern world, where we have cutting-edge, technologically advanced, quick-fix entertainment at our fingertips, this show is testament to the belief that it’s the old classic, simple stuff that you just cannot beat. Well, simple it may look, but simple it is not. It is evident that these multi-faceted actors (comedians, in their own right) have worked hard to give us what looks an effortlessly slick performance.

Original songs by Gary Yerson are a nice touch, interweaving through the frivolous frolicking, adding to the pace, allowing seamless segues between sections. Alice Power’s clever set design, has a life of its own, transporting us from the farcical to the fantastical but always providing the perfect backdrop. There’s also a plethora of cameos from many well utilised props and set pieces that you may recognise from Eric and Ernie’s iconic sketches. Lighting by Tim Mitchell is stand out, particularly when dramatically pinpointing Soni’s featured soliloquy moments. Visually reminiscent of the old-school British variety show that we all know and love, the studio-esque sequences are very pleasing to the eye – especially the light pastel blue canvas blanketing and framing the stage, providing an open playing space silhouetting the top-hatted duo in the show-biz finale.

But perhaps the most beautiful thing about this production is – you don’t have to be a Morecambe and Wise fan to be in on the jokes and references… it’s seasoned with just the right of nostalgia but mixed with substantial originality to keep it fresh. You could take your nan or your youngest family relative and both would laugh their socks off… 5 stars! Tormentingly ticklish and infectious comedy.

Running until 5 Feb 2022 then continues its UK Tour

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The North West team is under the editorship of John Roberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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One Comment

  1. Went last night to the Lowry production – it was absolutely dreadful – only 200 seats sold – laughter was barely audible and the hype was def over egged – supposed to be a ‘surprise guest’ but she was interviewed on tv few days before – it was so bad we left at the interval as did several others – never left a play before the end but it was just too painful to sit through the second act!! Total waste of money – really disappointed!!

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