The magic of Morecambe & Wise recreated for Horsham, Crawley and Portsmouth

Ian Ashpitel and Jonty Stephens bring the magic of Eric & Ern back to life as they hit the road on tour.

Celebrating Eric & Ernie
Celebrating Eric & Ernie

They are promising a brilliant homage to Morecambe and Wise crammed full of those famous comedy sketches, from Grieg’s Piano concerto to the paper bag trick.

Their dates include Saturday, September 25 at The Capitol, Horsham; Thursday, October 7 at The Hawth, Crawley; and Wednesday, October 6 at Portsmouth Guildhall – all proof that the great Eric & Ernie magic isn’t dimming.

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The Olivier Award nominated duo are promising a nostalgic evening evoking memories of a time long ago when whole families would huddle around the telly on Sunday evenings – and when Morecambe and Wise were pretty much obligatory festive viewing.

“We did the play Eric & Little Ern at Edinburgh seven years ago and we did two tours of that and one London run.

“And then we were on the cruise ships for a couple of years and people were saying the show was great and why didn’t we do it in the theatres. It was like a variety show really.

“This is now our sixth tour. Obviously we had the Covid break.

“We were in the middle of a tour when Covid happened and we were due to go on. Obviously it was tough, but it was tough for everybody.

“In a way for the first three months we thought it was a bit of a rest.”

It was a chance to take stock in a way for the duo.

“We had been on the road all the time and it was tiring, but then after three or four months we were wanting to get back to it and of course, we couldn’t.

“Jonty was driving for Amazon and I was doing some painting and decorating. I am good and I am very reasonable!”

But now normality has kind of resumed: “The show has taken over our lives.”

And it is great to show the equal part that both Eric and Ernie played in the double act.

As Ian, who plays Ernie, recalls, there was once a broadsheet article with the headline ‘Does Eric Morecambe really need Ernie Wise?’

“And there was a famous comic, who I won’t name, who said that Ernie Wise was one of the luckiest men alive to have had Eric Morecambe as his partner.

“But I think what people forget is that Ernie Wise was like the older brother to Eric Morecambe. He looked after him in more ways than one. Eric couldn’t pay bills. He didn’t carry money. Ernie looked after everything.

“But Eric also needed Ernie to bounce off.

“Ernie’s comic timing was superb. Ernie was standing next to Eric Morecambe and he was feeding him all these lines, and his timing was just brilliant. It had to be.”

And Ernie was happy with that, though, as Ian says, the dynamic changed slightly when their wives came along. Ernie’s wife felt that Ernie should have been given much more credit.

The point is that within the inner circle there was absolutely no doubt. Those that knew knew that Morecambe without Wise was just unimaginable: “The families knew just how important Ernie was and Eric most of all appreciated him.”

As for Morecambe’s recently rediscovered comments disparaging the comedy talents of Monty Python, Ian believes they probably have to be seen in context – plus the fact that Monty Python notoriously divided people.

“It certainly divided us in my house. My brother was a huge Monty Python fan while my mother just could not understand it.

“I am a little bit surprised that Eric really didn’t like Monty Python because all comedy has something in it.

“But also in Eric and Ernie’s work there was definitely quite a lot of stuff that was actually fairly left field...”