Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 9/10
Cast: Stephen Tompkinson, Mark Bonnar, Neil Maskell, Rufus Jones, Liz White, Alex Macqueen, Adam James, Katherine Kingsley, Natasha Joseph, Susan Twist, Isobel Middleton, Lisa Jackson, Louis Emerick, Darren Bransford, John Culshaw, Rosalind Halstead.
Who makes a song a popular hit, is it the singer that captures the soaring notes and melancholy beauty or is it the writer who sits alone and stares at a blank piece of paper waiting for inspiration to come knocking, scribbling down a line, scrawling and scoring, the provider of the smash in waiting. It is the chicken and egg question, who makes who the success?
It is a question that encapsulates the relationship between Morecambe and Wise, two of Britain’s most loved and cherished comedians, and Eddie Braben, the writer behind much of the pair’s admired moments on screen, the lime light and the pressure going hand in hand for a decade. Without Liverpool’s Eddie Braben, Morecambe and Wise would have arguably flopped, sank into television obscurity, finding only the dying variety shows at the theatre their only solace; without Eric and Ernie, Eddie Braben would probably have written for someone else, but he would never have been considered one of the finest comedy script writers the country ever produced.
Eric, Ernie and Me, the biopic of the time at the helm of Britain’s favourite half hour of television, of the last time when 28 million people in the U.K. watched the same programme at the same time and laughed, rejoiced as one over the Christmas period of 1977. From a meeting that neither party really wanted, to undoubtedly the kings of television, the three were inseparable as egg and chips with a side order of mayonnaise.
Today, more than thirty years after Morecambe’s untimely passing, people remember Eric and Ernie with great affection; yet who was the writer of the song, hit after hit, joke after joke, from the finest of moments involving Andre Previn, the unveiling of Angela Rippon as more than a news reader and a police car going past and the immortal thought of ice cream going unsold; the joker in the pack paid for the excellence with extreme stress, a punishing schedule and the demands of a man, who was supremely talented, but terrified of falling flat in the public’s and critic’s eyes.
Neil Forsyth’s insightfulness captures the writing with marvellous effect, the madness of a schedule, of always trying to top the previous offering with something bigger, better, seeking more applause and constant re-writes and demanding bosses; it asks the question of why anyone would be a writer, for it never for the glory or the money, it is for the satisfaction of having your voice heard.
For Stephen Tompkinson this is arguably his finest moment on television since Drop The Dead Donkey, his portrayal of Eddie Braben is absolute and genuine and with the versatile Mark Bonnar and thoughtful Neil Maskell as Morecambe and Wise and the gifted Liz White playing Eddie’s supportive wife Deidree, Eric, Ernie and Me is a touching reminder to viewers to look further than the front of the illuminated stage and remember that sometimes the song they love is not made famous by the singer but the person looking at the blank piece of paper and imagining what could be.
Ian D. Hall