Eric and Little Ern failed to bring sunshine to Benjamin Monk.
The Manchester Opera House has played host to many legends—Laurence Olivier and Orson Welles amongst them—so it is intriguing to see a piece recreating Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise’s work. This is not the first time essences of the double-act have been revived for theatrical nostalgia—both the solo act Morecambe and The Play Wot I Wrote have both been Olivier award winning, commercial successes—but this features both Morecombe and Wise together as explicit characters.
Their original material, by Eddie Braben, Dick Hills and Sid Green, provides a majority of the content around a devised framing by Ian Ashpitel (also playing Ernie Wise) and Jonty Stephens (Eric Morecambe). With Ernie near-death in hospital, who should visit but Eric, who then performs skit after skit amongst Wikipedia-esque footnotes through their past. They provide a spitting image of the two stars and are undeniably talented at embodying the duo.
They received a fantastic reception from an audience able to communally adore their beloved idols once more—but left me entirely cold. Transferring from the West End after a Fringe First-winning Edinburgh Fringe run, the performance does seem overwhelmed by its 2000-seat host with a basic set, and the performance felt too distant for me to be able to engage. But it is clear that this exists solely to entertaining those who grew up amongst them, with my presence there an anomaly—a star for them both seems appropriate.
But with so much comedy history available to watch digitally, could our generation pay for Michael McIntyre’s acts to be defrosted and reconstructed one day? With Faber publishing Stewart Lee’s performances as scripts, and tribute musical acts successful for decades, it is certainly possible that this most Frankenstein-style of comedy performance could be alive for years to come.