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Nostalgia show celebrates comedy of Morecambe and Wise at Hornchurch's Queen's Theatre

PUBLISHED: 15:00 11 February 2020

Jonty Stephens showing off his ventriloquism skills. Picture: Paul Coltas

Jonty Stephens showing off his ventriloquism skills. Picture: Paul Coltas

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Two comedians will be paying tribute to much-loved double act Morecambe and Wise at Queen's Theatre.

Jonty Stephens and Ian Ashpitel try to capture the brillance of Morecambe and Wise in their show. Picture: Eric and Little ErnJonty Stephens and Ian Ashpitel try to capture the brillance of Morecambe and Wise in their show. Picture: Eric and Little Ern

The Olivier Award nominated Ian Ashpitel and Jonty Stephens hope to evoke a time when whole families would huddle around the telly on Sunday evenings for their show, Eric & Ern.

Jonty, who performs as Eric, said: "What we try and do is get the audience to believe that for two hours we are Eric and Ern - and no one knows more than we do what a tall order that is.

"There's no better feeling in the world than making people laugh, but to make them laugh as Morecambe and Wise... it's a joy to perform as them.

"They were so beloved by the public and we feel that affection when we're doing the show."

Jonty Stephens and Ian Ashpitel try to capture the brillance of Morecambe and Wise in their show. Picture: Eric and Little ErnJonty Stephens and Ian Ashpitel try to capture the brillance of Morecambe and Wise in their show. Picture: Eric and Little Ern

Ian added: "Jonty always said 'we're sticking our heads above the parapet and hoping no one shoots us down' and they haven't yet.

"It's gone from Jonty doing an impression and then growing into both of us doing a portrayal of two working class lads who 'made it' in comedy."

The show, originally called Eric and Little Ern, was first performed at The Edinburgh Fringe to rave reviews.

It then went on a successful tour which culminated in its first West End run at the Vaudeville theatre.

Jonty Stephens as Eric and Ian Ashpitel as Ernie will be performing their comedy show at the Queen's Theatre in March. Picture: Eric and Little ErnJonty Stephens as Eric and Ian Ashpitel as Ernie will be performing their comedy show at the Queen's Theatre in March. Picture: Eric and Little Ern

In 2014 the comedy show was nominated for an Olivier Award.

Jonty described the process of putting the show together as a "real voyage of discovery".

They met at a drama school in 1983 when Ian was a "mature" student and Jonty an "immature student".

Jonty said: "The pairing happened for that five minute sketch which we performed at the host club for the Stage Golfing Society, of which we are both members.

Jonty Stephens as Eric and Ian Ashpitel as Ernie will be performing their comedy show at the Queen's Theatre in March. Picture: Eric and Little ErnJonty Stephens as Eric and Ian Ashpitel as Ernie will be performing their comedy show at the Queen's Theatre in March. Picture: Eric and Little Ern

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"Some fool asked me to do Eric for the show and I said 'yes, but I'll need a Little Ern, I looked across the bar and there was Ian with his hair and short fat hairy legs'."

Ian added: "Then six years later they asked us to do it again, but this time we wrote some material in the style of M and W and it went down so well. We realised two things - people believed we were good enough to portray them and that perhaps we could write something about them as well."

Much of their material included the iconic catchphrases with Eric referring to Ernie's "short, fat, hairy legs" or Eric saying "you can't see the join" where Ernie's supposed wig was attached.

Jonty Stephens as Eric and Ian Ashpitel as Ernie will be performing their comedy show at the Queen's Theatre in March. Picture: Eric and Little ErnJonty Stephens as Eric and Ian Ashpitel as Ernie will be performing their comedy show at the Queen's Theatre in March. Picture: Eric and Little Ern

Morecambe and Wide had a series of shows that spanned more than 20 years, including BBC's Running Wild, Two of a Kind and seasons of The Morecambe & Wise Show from 1968 to 1978.

In 1999 the pair were posthumously awarded the BAFTA Fellowship.

Speaking about what made Morecambe and Wise so special, Ian said it was the chemistry between the performers.

"It was also their relationship off and on stage which gave them their huge success," said Ian.

Jonty Stephens and Ian Ashpitel behind the curtain. Picture: Paul ColtasJonty Stephens and Ian Ashpitel behind the curtain. Picture: Paul Coltas

"They were so funny together, they trusted each other. There's a chemistry between them that you can't fake.

"It has to be real, otherwise the audience can see if it isn't."

The duo will be joined on stage with the singer Becky Neale.

"It's a real celebration of the comedy of Morecambe and Wise," said Jonty.

"You'll see some of their most loved sketches along with some you may not be so familiar with.

"It's real family entertainment, with good old fashioned belly laughs at the silliness and brilliance of Eric and Ern - as it was with all the M and W shows. We love it when there are children in the audience laughing along with their mums and dads."

Eric & Ern is showing at Queen's Theatre in Billet Lane, Hornchurch, on Monday, March 2 at 7.30pm. Visit queens-theatre.co.uk or call 01708 443333 for tickets.

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