“Here’s a perfect fit for the panto slot,” said Clive Davis in The Times. Twenty years after it took the West End by storm, Hamish McColl and Sean Foley’s celebration of Morecambe & Wise –“full of all the right words, but not necessarily in the right order” – is packing them in at the Birmingham Rep.
The first-half set-up is that a rackety double act – played here by Dennis Herdman and Thom Tuck – land a gig as a Morecambe & Wise tribute show. The second half, in which a different famous guest star appears each night, is then a riotous pastiche of a Morecambe & Wise Christmas special, and includes material by Eddie Braben, the comedy writer who worked with the duo for 14 years.
This revival is directed by Foley himself, and he is a master of farce, said Mark Lawson in The Guardian. “At startling but comprehensible speed, wordplay, sight gags and slapstick constantly compete to top each other”; and silly stunts – involving trick arms and legs, joke bread loaves and botched magic tricks – trigger an “avalanche of laughs” that is as “energising as going to the gym after a spell of vegetating”.
It might not be traditional Christmas fare, but The Play What I Wrote – which will tour to Bath, Salford, Chichester, Malvern and Sheffield – is the “perfect therapeutic humour for these seriously unfunny times”.
You don’t have to be a Morecambe & Wise fan to enjoy this “ace” show, said Quentin Letts in The Sunday Times. My daughter-in-law, who is Chinese and unfamiliar with the duo, had a “wonderful night”.
Herdman and Tuck are both excellent, said Dominic Cavendish in The Daily Telegraph. The former is “blessed with an Eric-esque physicality and quickness”; the latter an “Ernie-like pensiveness and dreaminess”. Mitesh Soni does a fine job in assorted roles. And the opening-night guest star, Tom Hiddleston, gamely “sent himself up”.
This “ideal winter warmer” is one of the “daftest and most delightful stage comedy shows of the 21st century, re-minted for a new generation”. You will “laugh your head off. You may shed a little tear too.”
Birmingham Rep (birmingham-rep.co.uk). Until 1 January, then touring
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