Review: Eric & Ern at Christmas is a spectacular tribute which hits all the right notes

The impressions are uncanny, with both performers able to mimic with unerring accuracy the voices as well as mannerisms of the two legends

Olivier award nominated Ian Ashpital (Mr Selfridge) and Jonty Stephens (Peaky Blinders), as Ernie Wise and Eric Morcambe respectively, bring the sunshine to The Lowry this Christmas with their spectacular tribute act that will leave fans of the iconic duo ecstatic. 

With enough one-liners, musical set-pieces and hilarious antics to captivate the uninitiated as well, it proves to be a hit with a surprisingly cross-generational audience of all ages, as the laughs come thick and fast. 

Widely lauded as one of the greatest comedy double acts to ever grace the stage and screen, Morecambe and Wise are an institution in the UK and have very large boots to fill.

But Stephens and Jonty are equal to the challenge, as it is apparent that, just like the famous double-act themselves, Stephens and Jonty are great friends off-stage as well. 

In fact, it is not hyperbole to suggest that the impressions are borderline uncanny, with both performers able to mimic with unerring accuracy the voices as well as the mannerisms of the two legends. 

They play off each other wonderfully with Stephens playing the fool to Ashpital’s straight man throughout, running through the treasured set list with spectacular fluidity. 

Photo: Paul Coltas

Having been born a little too late to experience Morecambe and Wise during their heyday in the 1970s, I am nonetheless familiar with their immense, and immensely popular body of work, especially through the annual reruns on telly over the Christmas period. 

The greatest hits were immediately familiar to me, with favourites like the paper bag sketch, the slapping dance, and the shared bed sketch proving hugely popular with the audience, who would often pre-empt the punchlines by getting involved with the fun.

In fact, there is a great rapport between the duo and the audience throughout, with audience members in the front rows getting picked out for the occasional bit of good natured teasing. 

Adding a little class to the proceedings is the incredible vocal talent of Sinéad Wall, whose rendition of Send in the Clowns to a farcical balloon animal display backdrop from the boys, would make Dame Shirley Bassey proud. 

The second half does not flow with the same ease as the first, with a ventriloquism section that seemed to run on for far too long, adding a perhaps unnecessary 20 minutes or so to an already fairly hefty two hours plus run time, but, this minor loss of pacing proves to be a minor issue in the end.

The show ends strongly to the old favourite Bring me Sunshine, with full audience participation. Wishful thinking for December in Manchester perhaps, but an uplifting sentiment in these uncertain times. 

Those wishing to see an extremely faithful rendition of the classic M & W sketches will certainly not be disappointed.

And with tickets running from a very reasonable £20, it certainly left me feeling as though Eric and Ern at Christmas hit all the right notes… and in the right order to boot.

Eric & Ern at Christmas is at The Lowry until Sunday 12th December. Tickers are available here.

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