He recalls Morecambe’s life story 25 years after he collapsed backstage after giving the best performance of his life. His death, described in the opening scene, was almost as sensational as his life.
After six curtain calls at the Roses Theatre, Tewkesbury, he ironically told the audience “That’s your lot!” His final heart attack afterwards meant he was right and, to the devastation of his comedy partner Ernie Wise, who couldn’t survive without him, Eric Morecambe had taken his final bow.
In the course of the evening, Golding manages to get as many laughs as the comedy great himself. When, with perfect comic timing, he says “What do you think of the show so far?” there is a pause before everyone shouts in the traditional way, “Rubbish!”
Of course, it isn’t rubbish and Golding plays a variety of characters including Bruce Forsyth but his greatest impersonation, apart from Morecambe, is of Ernie Wise, represented by a ventriloquist’s dummy. I’m not sure this works, for it implies that Ernie’s role was smaller than Eric’s. In fact they contributed equally, shared their earnings equally and enjoyed the other’s laughter/applause as much as their own. Nevertheless, Golding brings that dummy to life in an uncanny way.
Amid all the one-liners told with a slip of his horn-rimmed specs, he is telling a story of an amazing life. During the war, Ernie was in the Merchant Navy and Eric a “Bevin Boy” down the mines. Their first TV show was a flop and they failed in America. On top of all that Eric’s heart condition, which he jokingly calls his “Achilles” heart, constantly dogs him.
Yet, as Golding constantly reminds us, at the peak of their fame, half the population of the country watched them on TV on Christmas day. The show has already been a West End hit and, judging by the standing ovation, Bob Golding’s quick-witted and warm-hearted performance is a hit here, too.
- Julia Taylor