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The Man Called Monkhouse (Assembly Hall, Edinburgh)

This one-man show 'can't bring the effigy alive' of the late comedian

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Simon Cartwright as Bob Monkhouse

The necrophiliac obsession with dead comics continues apace with this appropriately unctuous memorial to Bob Monkhouse, a brilliant gag meister in his day - his autobiography is one of the best and funniest of showbiz books - and unsurpassed game show host. "Bernie, the bolt please," he'd intone as a catchphrase on The Golden Shot in the 1970s.

Perhaps it was the 1870s. Could well have been, judging by the eerily accurate mummification Bob's received from perma-tanned Monkhouse lookalike Simon Cartwright: he's got the voice that sounds like treacle sliding over gravel, the smarmy sideways glance, the nervous tic of a barking yelp, and the Tourette-ish use of "wow" and "gosh" as pre-stand-up expletives; Bob was a shooting star of the dying music hall and the post-war radio comedy explosion.

What Cartwright doesn't have is a script (by Alex Lowe) worthy of Bob and his writing partner Denis Goodwin, at whose funeral service Bob is about to deliver a retrospective eulogy while also alluding to the infamous theft of two of his bulging joke books, his idolatry of Danny Kaye and Bob Hope (he always wrote new gags for Hope when he visited Britain), his affair with Diana Dors, and the classic pre-Leveson press intrusion into his son's cerebral palsy.

Having established Monkhouse with chilling accuracy, Cartwright simply can't bring the effigy alive. He's as good an impersonator as John Culshaw or Rory Bremner. But with Monkhouse himself, you glimpsed the soul of a sad comedian, and the toxic gleam was consistently maintained.

Here, there's no grace or fluency to the performance. Apart from in one or two - not enough! - gags: "I still have sex at 67; well, it's convenient as I live at number 65"; and, down in the dumps, the supremely Beckettian "I'd kill myself but I'd probably live to regret it."

The Man Called Monkhouse continues at Assembly Hall until 31 August

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