Urbani shines as British comedy legend

Urbani shines as British comedy legend

SHOW: MORECAMBE

DIRECTOR: ALAN SWERDLOW

CAST: Craig Urbani

VENUE:  STUDIO AT PIETER TOERIEN’S THEATRE, MONTECASINO, UNTIL JUNE 7

REVIEW: PETER FELDMAN

The name Eric Morecambe, I daresay, is not familiar to the South African public at large – though he was a household name in the UK

Together with his partner Ernie Wise, they were one of the most popular comedy acts of the post-war period and for decades had Britons in stitches with their humour. Morecambe, whose real name was Eric Bartholomew, died in 1984. He collapsed on stage after a performance, suffering his third heart attack.

He made his professional debut in 1939 in a touring show at the age of thirteen, having won a talent competition over 100 other contestants. There, he first met Ernie Wise.

Bringing the Morecambe persona to life is renowned South African actor Craig Urbani, who provides audiences with a performance of sheer brilliance, managing to capture in style and presentation a perception of what the comedian was like.

This Olivier Award winning West End play, written by Tim Whitnall and splendidly directed by Alan Swerdlow, is a mesmerising travelogue of Morecambe’s career, his highs and lows and the many funny bits in between. The jokes come fast and furious, delivered by Urbani in a Lancashire accent, and attuning one’s South African ear to the constant flow of words needs concentration.

Urbani connects with his audience from the moment he is on stage and the intimacy of the theatre serves him well. He never lets it go until the very end, working his magic with professional ease. Playing the part of long-time partner Ernie Wise is a puppet which proves to be an amusing prop throughout this one-man offering, especially when he is reminiscing about some of their engagements.

Many people played a part on Morecambe’s life and Urbani demonstrates his ability to change accents and present believable characters, switching from his mother in curlers to a dense cabbie driver and from a tough West End theatre producer to his dour father.

The many facets all fall neatly into place and though there was the odd miss step when delivering his dialogue, overall, his interpretation came off majestically.

Morecambe was famous for saying “Bring Me Sunshine” – and he certainly did.

On playing the piano, he says: “I’m playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order.”

It’s difficult to know what sort of an audience ‘Morecombe’ will attract, but it’s a well-crafted piece of work and enjoyable to boot. It’s the sort of fun, uplifting slice of comedy that we all need right now.

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