tom Hiddleston

Thom Tuck. left, and Dennis Herman, rIght, marvel at Tom Hiddleston' song and dance routine in a frock. Pictures: Geraint Lewis

The Play What I Wrote

Birmingham Rep


If ever you needed a show to bring you sunshine in the depths of winter, then this is it – a gloriously daft, stupid, inane, and wonderfully affectionate homage to the late, great Eric and Ernie.

To those of us of a certain age a highlight of Christmas for eight glorious years was the Morcambe and Wise Christmas Special which brought us such celebrity stars as Andrew Prevue and Greig, Glenda Jackson and Shirley Bassey in boots.

So, as this was The Play What I Wrote there had to be a famous, celebrity guest star which, on Press night was Arthur the electrician, desperate to play his harmonica to please his mum, pretending to be Tom Hiddleston, fairly badly, to be honest.

Oh, and some bloke claiming to be the actual Tom Hiddleston turned up, and he was a lot better at it than what Arthur was.

It is all part of the Eric and Ernie game though, inflict one of Ernie’s excruciating bad plays on some hapless big star, and with Huddersfield, sorry, Hiddleston, they don’t come much bigger, a Hollywood A-lister, Royal Shakespeare Company royalty and a glittering star of TV.

He must have really hit hard times to appear in rubbish like what this is though, although, to be fair, he seemed to be enjoying every daft minute and having the time of his celebrated life playing the Comte De Toblerone (check spelling – Ed)  – after all the Marvel films and even Shakespeare didn’t go in much for dressing up in frocks, painfully bad jokes or song and dance for that matter.

more song and dance

They just don't make 'em like they used to, Dennis, Tom and Thom.

It is a lovely performance from Hiddleston, sending himself up and throwing himself wholeheartedly into the fun – he did lose his head at one point, but that’s what French revolutions tend to do to comtes and aristocrats like what he is in it.

He was the icing on an already fine Christmas cake at the Rep with one of the funniest shows of the century so far. It is a play that never makes the mistake of being a sort of theatrical karaoke, trying to do impressions of Eric and Ernie.

This is a show about doing, or rather not doing, or maybe doing, or perhaps not, a show about Morcambe and Wise. We never actually get round to doing an ersatz tribute act show which means the duo can remain in the background, always there, slipping in now and again, evoking equal measures of memories and affection in the audience.

The act we are seeing is Dennis and Thom, Dennis Herdman, who is the funny one, and Thom Tuck the straight man who is a comic genius who gets silent laughs, or so he was told.

He also writes plays and wants to become a serious playwright, which is the biggest laugh he will get all night. But, to save the double act, Dennis agrees to put on Thom’s play about the Scarlet Pimple in the French Revolution – presumably Nell was unavailable. Which is where the celebrated Mr Hiddleston comes in.

Along the way we have met Arthur, a superb performance from Mitesh Soni, who has given us the Morecambe and Wise Appreciation Society Military Wing, celebrated West End impresario Pugh and, just to be different, celebrated Hollywood actress Charlotte Yourgrandson – work that one out yourselves.

bed scene 

The inevitable bedroom scene with Dennis, Thom and an indignant Tom who, apparently objects to being called Shirley or Sue . . . 

Arthur, is part of the homage to Eric and Ernie, a nod to Bloxwich born music hall journeyman Arthur Tolcher, who appeared in early Morecambe and Wise shows always wanting to play his harmonica and always told “Not Now Arthur”.

The pace is 100mph from beginning to end with one liners, lines that are a tribute to puerile and wordplay that is just brilliant – favourites being The Tennis Williams along with Big Mac and Small French . . . fries.

It is laugh out loud fun from beginning to end but through it all we have the benevolent ghosts of Eric and Ernie looking down, such as when Dennis, a prisoner in the Bastille, asks a skeleton: “What do you think of it so far”, and the audience answers.

Or when Dennis and Thom are in bed and you hear a siren go past and there is a long pause when you can feel and even taste the anticipation around you as the audience waits for the inevitable “He’s not going to sell much ice cream going at that speed, is he”.

It is a heady mix of fast paced, sparkling modern yet old fashioned comedy, if you see what I mean, sophisticated and cleverly stupid all coated in a warm, gentle feeling of nostalgia.

The original play, back in 2001, was co-written, incidentally, by the Rep’s Artistic Director, Sean Foley, along with Hamish McColl, and of course, Eddie Braben, with Foley and McColl also taking the lead roles. Foley.has updated and directed this incarnation 20 years on.

Meanwhile, just to be clear, there is no guarantee Tom Hiddleston will be the mystery guest at any performance, other stars are available as they say, and it’s not much of a mystery if the Rep tells you who it is, so whoever turns up will be a surprise – for them as well as you, I suspect, when they see the script.

But whoever it is this is a wonderful night of hilarity and very British daft, supremely silly humour to bring you all the sunshine you will ever need on a cold winter’s night. One not to be missed.

Roger Clarke


Index page Rep Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre