The Play What I Wrote, Bath Theatre Royal

DECONSTRUCTION has become a bit of a fad this century – specially among chefs and playwrights.

Mostly I find menus offering deconstructed trifle, Black Forest Gateau, cheesecakes and chicken pies prove that the original classic was famous just because it was “constructed” to go together.

Theatrically it has been a more successful enterprise. Brilliant re-workings – Travels with My Aunt and Shakespeare’s R and J come to mind – have shone new light on familiar stories, but mostly you have to know and love the original.

So it was with some hesitation that I went to Bath Theatre Royal to see the “homage” to Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise that opened in 2001 as The Play What I Wrote. Stunning reviews and audience frenzy notwithstanding, I was not one of Eric and Little Ern’s biggest fans, so I wouldn’t really appreciate this, would I?

Then there was all the hype about the guest star and whispered promises of all sorts of celebrities who might grace the stage on any given night – theatre staff sworn to secrecy, of course.

I could not have been more wrong.

The hilarious, poignant, astonishingly clever play devised by Sean Foley and Hamish McColl, with (of course) legendary original contributions from Eddie Braben, captures the spirit of comedy, of well-worn routines and spontaneous interjections, and of just how much we all need – and love – to laugh.

On the night we saw it, the “guest” was the magnificently mellifluous Charles Dance, playing second fiddle (sometimes in drag) to Thom Tuck’s Thom, starring as The Scarlet Pimple in the (dire) play what he wrote. Dennis Herdman was Thom’s elastically tall partner, Dennis, in a tortured double act, with the wonderfully deadpan Mitesh Soni stepping into all the other roles.

It’s great theatre, a scintillating conceit full of intellectual challenges and theories that never for one moment get in the way of the sheer fun and entertainment provided by the two “leading” actors, their stooge and their gamely spry guest.

Why did I never see it before?  When can I see it again?

The show is at Bath until Saturday 22nd January, and continues its UK tour until early March.


Photographs by Manuel Harlan

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