Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Spirit of Eric N' Ern Is Causing Mayhem

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Spirit of Eric N' Ern Is Causing Mayhem

Article excerpt

Byline: By David Whetstone

From Groucho Marx to Ernie Wise. David Whetstone talks to actor Ben Keaton, for whom life has been one long comic caper.

Back by popular demand is the show that is, and also isn't, about Morecambe and Wise, arguably the greatest post-war double act.

The Play What I Wrote was a sell-out at Newcastle Theatre Royal in the autumn of 2002 and returns next month. But it comes to Darlington next week.

It's a brief blast of comic mayhem featuring a crazy threesome and a mystery guest in the style of the late Eric and Ernie, whose TV shows required an Andre Previn or a Glenda Jackson to play the bemused fall guy.

Irishman Ben Keaton knows the problem of playing, yet not impersonating, a famous, much-loved comedian.

He was the Groucho Marx character in the hit stage version of Animal Crackers, the Marx Brothers film, which came to Hexham in 1998 and wreaked havoc.

He explained at the time how all the cigar-chomping impersonators got the thumbs down while he got the part by turning up at the audition as "this barking mad Irish poet" clad in rustic tweeds.

Now he teams up with Joseph Alessi, who played Chico in Animal Crackers, in The Play What I Wrote, replacing original cast members Hamish McColl and Sean Foley.

"They're friends of ours," he explained yesterday. "We come from similar roots and know each other's stuff very well."

He agreed it was difficult to convey the essence of The Play What I Wrote in a few sentences. "The only thing we say is that it's not an impression of Morecambe and Wise but it has everything in it that you would ever hope to see if you were going to see that.

"My character is very like Ernie Wise and Joseph's is like Eric Morecambe. But we are not meant to be them."

Ben explains how the producer, David Pugh, approached McColl and Foley, who were a double act in their own right, to create a show about Morecambe and Wise. …

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