Tour to 24 June 2013
Runs: 2h, one interval

Review: Alexander Ray Edser (Birmingham Hippodrome, 12 June 2013)

Absorbing, with a great Tommy Cooper recreation.
Tom Green’s exploration of the Tommy Cooper phenomenon is intriguing, absorbing, it centres a marvellous performance from Damian Williams, but it’s also not fully satisfying. It feels, as a play, oddly unfinished.

Green’s creation, taken as a whole, is about, often inexplicable, compulsion. It’s no surprise that centre to the play is Cooper himself – Tommy Cooper, a brilliant, brilliant performer. But around him are Billy Glason – an ex-performer, now selling encyclopaedias; his manager, Miff Ferrie; and Cooper’s long-term lover, Mary Kay.

Cooper is compelled to perform, he’s also alcoholic. Glason is a compulsive gambler. What compels Ferrie to stay with Cooper, or Kay to continue their turbulent relationship? All these characters are driven by things they don’t comprehend. And none more so than Cooper himself. Mary Kay reveals, at one point, that the real Tommy Cooper is the unreal one we see in performance. At another point she remarks that no one who saw him perform could doubt his focus and his talent. As the play moves along we learn more and more of the complexity of this wonderful clown.

And here’s the fault-line in the play. In the first half Williams performs a marvellous recreation of a Cooper act. We desperately need another recreation at the end of the second half. Not just because the audience is crying out for it, and feel let down without it – which is good enough reason for putting it in; but also because we can then reassess the brilliant comedy in the light of the complexity, pain even, that we’ve learnt about.

Williams is up to all this – he manages to look and sound like Cooper, but can express his unpredictable nastiness and his vulnerability too.

But even with the structural flaw, I’m all the better for having seen the show than not to have seen it at all.

Tommy Cooper: Damian Willliams
Billy Glason: Morgan Deare
Miff Ferrie: Halcro Johnstone
Mar Kay: Rebecca Thorn

Director: Cecily Boys
Set and Costume Designs: Susannah Henry
Lighting Design: Simeon Miller
Sound Design: Max Pappenheim

2013-06-13 12:23:20

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