REVIEW – Only Fools’ Marlene adds to already excellent ‘The Play What I Wrote’ at Malvern

THE CLEVERNESS of this show – and it is there in abundance – is that it is not written and performed as just another Morecambe and Wise tribute, but is an entity in its own right.

The plot concerns a troubled double-act, Thom and Dennis. Thom has set his heart on being a serious dramatic playwright whilst Dennis wants them to continue with their partnership. Thom’s new play is an epic set in the French Revolution entitled ‘A Tight Squeeze for the Scarlet Pimple’ and Dennis sets himself a mission to persuade a big guest star to appear in the ‘play what Thom wrote’ in a bid to keep them together.

This approach salutes the genius of our beloved heroes Eric and Ernie more than any straightforward impression could do.

Dennis Herdman plays Dennis and Thom Tuck plays Thom. Mitesh Soni joins them as Arthur the stagehand and a host of other characters. You couldn’t drive a hair’s breadth between the talents of these three players.

Picture by Manuel Harlan. s

This 20-year update on the original show is directed and co-written by the Birmingham Rep’s current artistic director, Sean Foley.

Foley shares the writing credits with Hamish McColl and ‘of course’ Eddie Braben. Foley also appeared alongside McColl in the original production at Liverpool’s ‘Everyman’ where it was directed by Kenneth Branagh and won the Olivier Award for Best Comedy.

Classic Morecambe and Wise shows always had a surprise mystery guest to play the scapegoat in Ernie’s plays. Not unnaturally, this is also a highlight of this show as we eagerly await to see who is Thom’s unknown star.

There is a lot of history here – previous guest stars have included Ralph Fiennes (who did the original opening night back in 2001), Ewan McGregor, Bob Geldof, Joanna Lumley, Daniel Radcliffe, Kylie Minogue, Nigel Havers, Denise Welch, Sir Ian McKellen, Dawn French, Tom Hiddleston, Sting and not forgetting the late Roger Moore who actually suffered a real heart attack whilst taking part.

Hallowed footsteps indeed, Thom’s mystery star at Malvern turned out to be Only Fools and Horses favourite lady ‘Marlene’, the lovely Sue Holderness, who joined in the madness with great aplomb.

The clever set design is by Alice Power, which Tim Mitchell lights equally cleverly. Ian West’s choreography is slick and there is cheerful music under the direction of Steve Parry.

In truth there were a few teething problems on first night which meant the curtain was late going up on both acts – maybe it was the ghost of Eric Morecambe playing tricks?

Was he twitching his glasses in some celestial home for pranksters as our patience was stretched?

That is of course the magic of live theatre and I’m sure all will be running smoothly for the rest of the week.

It was joyous to see the wonderful Malvern Theatre packed and buzzing and a welcome tonic to hear audiences roaring with laughter again. Grab a ticket and bring a little sunshine into your life while you can.

The Play What I Wrote runs at Malvern Theatres until Saturday, February 19. Click here for times, tickets and more information.


Review by Euan Rose

Euan Rose Reviews

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