An evening of Eric and Ern, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, REVIEW: ‘It’s hard to find any fault’

They were at the Mayflower, Southampton.
They were at the Mayflower, Southampton.

Let me confess an interest.

Some 30-odd years ago I went to drama-school. In the year above me, a student called Jonty Stephens; in the year below me, a student called Ian Ashpitel. Yes – I admit I’ve known the creators and stars of An Evening of Eric and Ern for some considerable time.

The show is – of course! – a tribute to Morecambe and Wise, considered by many to be the best comedy double-act of all time. Stephens (Eric) and Ashpitel (Ern) bear uncanny resemblance to the pair both physically (nature) and vocally (nurture) and one must often remind oneself that Eric and Ern are no longer with us.

They present some of the duo’s most well-known and loved work, ranging from the Mr Memory sketch (that gave rise to the coughed cry of ‘Arsenal!’) and the Grieg’s Piano Concerto sketch (lacking Andrew Preview, but nicely worked round). Hand on my subjective heart – it’s hard to find any fault in either the selection of the material or its performance. I cannot use the word ‘perfection’ but it comes whisker-close.

Stephens has more to hang his performance on – Eric was the character-man with a greater physicality – but Ashpitel has Ern down pat, particularly in the vocals. They were recently nominated for an Olivier Award for their Morecambe and Wise work; they didn’t win. I’m happy to go on record with my belief that they were robbed.