The Play What I Wrote | Chichester Festival Theatre | Review

The Play What I Wrote

Chichester Festival Theatre

The Play What I Wrote is an insightful celebration of the British comedy double act Morecambe and Wise, and an irreverent and farcical exploration of the nature of double acts in general. Several other comic duos spring to mind as you watch the show and ponder the question: what makes a successful pairing? The Two Ronnies, Abbott and Costello, French and Saunders and possibly the greatest of all time, Laurel and Hardy, all feel present in this delightful homage to the golden ages of television and film comedy but would they have been as funny if they weren’t a duo? Which one was funnier and does it really matter as perhaps it is the synergy of the couple that makes the act so successful. Dustin Hoffman received all the plaudits for his Oscar-winning turn in the 1988 film Rainman however it is also surely one of Tom Cruise’s finest performances to date.

The Morecambe & Wise Show pretended the television studio was a theatre whereas Hamish McColl and Sean Foley’s The Play What I Wrote, a West End and Broadway hit 20 years ago, reciprocates the concept. A failing comic double act – played by Dennis Herdman and Thom Tuck, – are invited to perform a Morecambe & Wise tribute show although Tuck is far more interested in staging his latest play, A Tight Squeeze for the Scarlet Pimple  which consequently makes up the second half in a meticulous pastiche of the finale of a Christmas special.

Herdman and Tuck are both outstanding as they inhabit the spirit of Eric and Ernie without actually impersonating them. The audience are not asked to sit through a second rate tribute act as they have with a succession of poor theatrical adaptations of British sitcoms from a similar period. Mitesh Soni  is equally good as a plethora of cameos, including Hollywood legends, the alleged producer of The Play What I Wrote, a huge menacing dog, a musician suffering harmonica interrupts (Not Now Arthur!) and at one point a whole village.

There is of course a guest star who appears as did one in the real Morecambe & Wise Show however this reviewer won’t spoil the surprise by naming them. Let’s just say you won’t be disappointed.

The production is a slow burn and judging Act 1 by itself would have only merited a disappointing 3 stars. There were certainly a few members of the audience who left at the interval and consequently missed the sidesplittingly funny second half which deserves maximum marks. I would throughly recommend this show as it continues on it’s relatively short tour.


Reviewer: Patric Kearns