Local favourite Bob Golding brought the Alban Arena to a standing ovation on Saturday night with his virtuoso performance of Eric Morecambe in Morecambe.
Bob is the only actor to appear on the stage, but to say it is a one-man show is misleading. Bob plays over 50 characters from Eric’s life, including, of course, the great comedian himself. Tim Whitnall’s play is a fast-paced, ambitious piece of writing, that takes us through the highs and lows of Eric’s rise to stardom, while including many of the jokes that we now know have influenced comedy for a generation. Moving, serious, silly and often laugh-out-loud funny, Morecambe is a terrific play that was written with Bob in mind. And Bob is incredible in the role: he manages to convey a lifetime of performance, success, disappointment, love and friendship, while keeping the attention of a sold-out Arena audience. He knows when to wait for the laugh, when to grin at the audience, and when to calm the pace of the show. It must be exhausting to perform, but the audience loved it.
Morecambe started life at the Edinburgh Festival where it won the prestigious Fringe First Award, recognising “innovation and outstanding new writing”. Bob was shortlisted for Best Actor at the Laurence Olivier Awards, and the play won the Best Entertainment category. The play has now been re-produced (by Evolution Productions and Gary Morecambe) for the 30th anniversary of Eric Morecambe’s death, and it will tour around the country after the opening night in St Albans.
And St Albans was the perfect place for the opening night. Eric Morecambe and his family lived in Harpenden, and I am sure there were people who knew him in the audience on Saturday. Bob has a huge following in St Albans, where he lives, largely due to performances in the Arena pantomime; as one audience member told me, “Bob’s panto characters always have touches of Morecambe”. The cast of the panto were there to cheer him on; speaking in the interval Andy Day told me he thought Bob was “outstanding; he has all the characteristics of Morecambe”.
Comedian Vicky Arlidge observed that “Bob knows how to get the laughs and can play all the parts so well, including men and women, in a range of accents. And he plays three instruments. He is fabulous – a local treasure”. Novelist Matthew Arlidge thought the play “incredibly inventive – it captures his life and the emotion of it”.
Bob came back on stage at the end and explained that it meant such a lot to him to have support from his home audience. He ended by saying that “with positive thinking” he hopes the rest of the tour goes as well; I am sure Morecambe will bring sunshine to anyone lucky enough to get a ticket.
NOTE: If you would like to see Morecambe on tour, the nearest location is Stevenage, The Gordon Craig Theatre, 30-1 April. For more locations: morecambetour.co.uk.