The best tribute to Eric & Ernie? PATRICK MATRIION review The Play What I Wrote










Play what I wrote (Birmingham Repertory Theatre)

Rating:

Tom Hiddleston, best-known for being the Norse god Loki who transforms into a shapeshifting form in Marvel movies and TV series.

For his performance at Asgard’s Rep Theatre, the 6ft 2in Etonian decided to leave Loki’s horned helmet and opt for a Noel Coward dress.

And it was all smiles and winks – not mischief and mayhem – as he took his turn as the guest star/victim in a delightful revival of the Morecambe and Wise tribute show.

Hiddleston played the role of the “Comte de Toblerone”, a French Revolution fugitive, in an Ernie Wise play (‘A tight squeeze for the Scarlet Pimple’). Hiddleston was asked to deal with the Eric and Ernie characters gently.

The show, a comic homage to the beloved double act, was a long-running West End hit in the 1990s, when it starred the Rep’s current artistic director Sean Foley alongside Hamish McColl and Toby Jones – and was directed by Kenneth Branagh.

Best known as shapeshifting Norse god Loki in the Marvel films and TV series, Tom Hiddleston descended on the people of Birmingham last night

Tom Hiddleston is best known for his role as the shapeshifting Norse god Loki, in Marvel’s films and television series. He visited Birmingham last night

Hiddleston is pleased to tell Eric (Dennis Herdman) that he “did” The Night Manager… Herdman raises an eyebrow, and then responds: “Does his wife?”

Hiddleston asked Dennis if he saw Coriolanus. The gloriously predictable answer was: “Not from here!”

The brilliant thing about the knockabout performance is that while it’s pure comic sunshine –thanks to the Morecambe and Wise format that saw them riffing with celebrities such as Angela Rippon in the 1970s – here Dennis and Thom Tuck (Ernie) make it very much their own, right down to using their own first names.

With old favourite lines like “What d’you think the show has been so far?” there are no shortage of references to this legendary pair. Eric’s trademark whoop “Wahey”!

Dennis and Thom also top the act, as did the originals. They even chatted in their pajama-clad bed with Thom. Foley directs at a whip-cracking pace and is rewarded with steady laughs – and an inevitable standing ovation, giving thanks for the nostalgia and for it all being perfectly silly.

Mystery guest: Tom Hiddleston (centre) on stage in Birmingham last night with his co-stars

Tom Hiddleston, centre (mystery guest), onstage in Birmingham last night along with his co-stars

Dennis is a jolly cross between Morecambe and John Cleese, mixing Fawlty-esque silly walks with rubber-faced mugging, with jokes such as his warning to Hiddleston: ‘You don’t want to get on the wrong side of me – I had beans for breakfast!’

Thom’s Ernie character has touches of wounded camp and serious resolve. His impersonation of Morecambe is brilliant, with Thom wiggling his eyebrows upstage Dennis and moving his eyes. He also jokes about his literary goals in the set piece “play What I Wrote”, which is a joyously milked by the crowd as the show moves through its routines, with only one eye on it.

Mitesh Soni is desperate to get a gig as the Toby Jones ‘director music’.

He also wears hi-vis Y fronts underneath an ity bitsy cocktail gown to play Scarlett Johansson or ‘Charlotte my grandson’, as Dennis calls them. After that, he plays Hiddleston wearing a Loki costume until Dennis shows up.

And yes, we do get a rendition of Bring Me Sunshine ¿ and a cane-swinging, heel-kicking dance in top hat and tails down a flight of stairs

And yes, we do get a rendition of Bring Me Sunshine – and a cane-swinging, heel-kicking dance in top hat and tails down a flight of stairs

And yes, we do get a rendition of Bring Me Sunshine – and a cane-swinging, heel-kicking dance in top hat and tails down a flight of stairs.

There will be a steady turnover of celebs, so while Loki may not appear in Brum again, the show still has plenty to offer.

This Christmas special is almost unbelievable.

You can almost make believe it was one of Eric and Ernie's Seventies Christmas specials, all over again

This Christmas special is almost unbelievable.

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