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Morecambe and Wise show brings sunshine to theatre this Christmas

Generations have passed down their love of Morecambe and Wise, creating a powerful legacy that few other acts have managed to achieve.

Dennis Herdman and Thom Tuck, who are starring in the show, with Gary Morecombe and Sean Foley. Photo by Kris Askey.
Dennis Herdman and Thom Tuck, who are starring in the show, with Gary Morecombe and Sean Foley. Photo by Kris Askey.

Eric Morecambe's son, Gary Morecambe, said: "I've found that more and more actually, it's wonderful. You get people who are about 17 or 18 who are more knowledgeable than people were back in the day."

Birmingham Rep is preparing to bring sunshine to Birmingham this Christmas with The Play What I Wrote, a tribute to the iconic pair which first dazzled audiences twenty years ago.

This is artistic director Sean Foley's first show as director, despite coming to the role in February 2020, due to the major upheaval of the theatre industry caused by the pandemic.

It's a show close to heart, as he not only co-wrote it, but acted in the original West End and Broadway productions when it debuted in 2001.

The director and co-collaborator Hamish McColl were first asked to do a show about Morecambe and Wise by West End producer David Pugh, but the pair were hesitant to just perform an impersonation.

He said: "I said no. It would kill our careers stone-dead."

But the producer urged him to think of an idea relating to the comedy pair and with that, The Play What I Wrote was born.

Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise in their December 1985 Christmas show

Mr Foley said: "It's an inhabitation of their comic world, with the same sense of anarchy and fun. It's about comedy and the nature of creating comedy."

The show revolves around Thom and Dennis, a double act on the brink of splitting up.

Thom believes he is an undiscovered genius playwright, while Dennis just wants to perform a tribute to Morecambe and Wise, believing it will restore Thom's confidence in their double act.

Sean Foley added: "I think this show is generous - it's generous in the sense that we're going to entertain you, we're going to knock ourselves out to entertain you, and that's what they did."

It's clear to see that Gary Morecambe is a dedicated fan of his father's, beaming and grinning whenever someone recalls a legendary line from the pair.

Gary Morecambe said: "Obviously our Christmas was very much centred around that show. We used to stay in together watching it, it was a family thing, but the thing that surprises people is that it wasn't what the day was about, because my father really enjoyed Christmas.

"The only thing he always requested was if you were going to talk and watch it, you'd have to go in one room, and those who would just sit at laugh at funny bits would go in what he called the grown-up room and we all sat there.

"So I used to make a real effort not to talk when I was very young.

"But I'd seen the shows mostly anyway because I'd gone along to see them record them which was always great because you were kind of having a sneak preview and meeting the various people involved, so that was wonderful."

Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise in their December 1985 Christmas show.

And his favourite sketch?

Mr Morecambe said: "That would definitely be the Andre Previn routine because it was my father's favourite

"I always remember him saying to me the next day on the Boxing Day morning, he said whatever we do we won't surpass that, he said we might equal it, but we'll never break that ceiling, it won't get better than that, we can't do anything more than that.

"It's thirteen minutes of just genius. As a comedy act it's just extraordinary really that they achieved that. It was certainly his favourite and it's mine.

"Victoria Wood said that it was by and away not only her favourite piece but the funniest routine ever that's been on TV."

It's a joyous show, brought to the Rep to make people smile after an unprecedented two years of difficult.

Sean Foley added: "I was trying to construct a programme of shows which would bring some sunshine and that's when I thought - now is the moment to bring the show back.

"It was just literally going what will people need? And this seemed to me the perfect show."

And to give back to the community, the Rep is thanking key workers by offering them £5 tickets to previews of the Christmas show.

1500 discounted tickets will be available for the show's previews between Saturday November 27 and Saturday December 4.

Sean Foley said: “This special offer is The Rep’s way of thanking key workers for their dedication, sacrifice, and sheer hard work.”

Frontline NHS staff and key workers can book up to four tickets per household for the preview performances using the promote code KEYWORKERS.

The Play What I Wrote is at the Birmingham Rep from November 27 to January 1.

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