Premiered last month at the Assembly Rooms during the Edinburgh Fringe, Morecambe is penned by Tim Whitnall, performed by Bob Golding and directed by Guy Masterson. It’s the first biographical play about Morecambe, one half of the UK’s most popular comedy double act and the man who “brought us sunshine”, since he passed away 25 years ago.
The idea for the piece was born in 1997 when Masterson and Golding were appearing together at the Edinburgh Fringe in Steven Martin’s play Wasp, in which the then 24-year-old Golding played Masterson’s son. Masterson remarked at the time on Golding’s “extraordinary likeness to a young Eric Morecambe”.
Twelve years later, Masterson commissioned Whitnall – whose other credits include The Sociable Plover, revived this year at Edinburgh, this time with Masterson in the cast – to write the play. In Morecambe, Golding delivers a portrayal of the man and his life, from Morecambe Pier to ‘Andre Preview’, from tumbleweed to Glenda Jackson.
Born John Eric Bartholomew in 1926, Morecambe took his stage name from the seaside resort in Lancashire, which was his home town. With Ernie Wise, he formed one of Britain’s most renowned and enduring comedy double acts, Morecambe and Wise, performing together from 1941 until 1984, when Morecambe died following a backstage heart attack after a performance with six curtain calls.
The pair’s 1970s TV series The Morecambe and Wise Show attracted big-name celebrity guests – including Cliff Richard, prime minister Harold Wilson, Princess Anne and, in a famously high-kicking episode, Angela Rippon – and massive viewing figures. The 1977 Christmas special alone was watched by over 28 million, half of the UK population at the time.
Ahead of Morecambe at the Duchess, Complicite’s production of Samuel Beckett's Endgame, starring Mark Rylance and Simon McBurney, who also directs, runs from 2 October to 5 December (See News, 13 Aug 2009). And after Morecambe, Ibsen’s Ghosts is revived with Lesley Sharp and Iain Glen, who also directs, from 8 February to 15 May 2010 (See News, 4 Sep 2009).