Non-stop one-liners, a touching tribute to one of comedy’s most loved double acts and a guest appearance from a Hollywood star … The Play What I Wrote at The Birmingham Rep really is a show not to be missed.
Anyone who grew up in the Seventies will have the fondest memories of Morecombe and Wise. Just like white Christmas trees and Evil Knievel’s toy stunt bike, the comedy duo defined the decade as every family’s festive favourite. So much so that on Christmas Day 1977, some 29 million of us settled down in front of our TV sets for their seasonal TV special. The Play What I Wrote pays homage to the inimitable humour and the enduring friendship of Eric and Ernie brilliantly, rarely pausing for breath as it shifts effortlessly from the hilarious to the heart-warming – it’s a feel-good romp from start to finish, and one that had us laughing from curtain up to the final standing ovation.
It’s a beautifully worked ‘play within a play’, telling the story of Thom Tuck and Dennis Herdman through quick-fire gags and endless one-liners. Failed playwright Thom wants to leave the funny life in his past with his new production A Tight Squeeze for the Scarlet Pimple; Dennis wants them to perform a tribute to Morecombe and Wise in a bid to keep their double act alive. Convincing his mate Arthur (Mitesh Soni) to play a series of famous faces – from Scarlett Johansson to West End producer David Pugh – Dennis puts his plan to trick Thom into motion.
In true Morecombe and Wise tradition, there’s even the much celebrated guest appearance; and to the utter delight of the crowd last night it was A-lister Tom Hiddleston, better known as Marvel’s Loki and The Night Manager. When he first appears in a rather ridiculous dressing gown, Dennis proclaims “Don’t worry, there’s a drunk on the stage. Excuse me madam, only professionals are allowed up here”. Proving himself to be game for a laugh Hiddleston plays Comte De Toblerone, a fugitive from the French Revolution, and at one point he’s even singing and dancing in a blue satin dress and white wig. Ribbing ensues as he is called everything from Tim Henman to Tom Kidderminster, and when he asks Dennis if he has seen his Coriolanus, he responds “Not from here!”.
Throughout this endearing comedy there are more Eric and Ernie references than you can shake a stick at, while the finale of Bring Me Sunshine brought tears to my eyes as we all clapped and sang along. The Play What I Wrote is a fabulous throwback to the days of gentle comedy; it’s a daft, non-stop celebration of innuendos and clever word plays … and just for a moment I saw myself sitting with my family glued to that Christmas TV special from 1977.
The Play What I Wrote runs at The Birmingham Rep until Saturday January 1. For tickets and more information click here.