Foley and McColl bring you sunshine

Review by Oli Burley


SMILE-ACHE sufferers beware - The Play What I Wrote can inflict some serious pleasure-pain.

This feel-good work, based on the inimitable world of Morecambe and Wise, barely pauses for breath as it flits around the touchingly ludicrous, yet impeccably worked comedy of the world famous duo.

But forget biography - The Right Size company (Sean Foley and Hamish McColl) are more interested in capturing the spirit of the double act.

And they succeed thanks to a rich quick-fire script that rightly relegates the semblance of a plot into a vehicle for the exploration of human use and response to language, as well as visual humour.

In short, funnyman Sean decides to stage an evening of comedy in a last-ditch attempt to stop serious stage partner and deluded playwright Hamish walking out on their double act.

Sean opts to mimic the material of Morecambe and Wise, but he can only convince Hamish to join him on stage by telling him the pair will put on a production of Hamish's laughable, French Revolution-based work 'A Tight Squeeze for the Scarlet Pimple'.

The resolution of the duo's dilemma is helped along by the endearing over-posturing of a zealous sidekick (played by Toby Jones) and the late appearance of a 'surprise celebrity guest' - all of which adds to the general sense of bonhomie.

While many of the one-liners and puns are genuinely enlightened the audience is confronted by its fair share of 'cheesy' gags. Repeat too many of them down the pub and your mates may suspect you of having private access to Bob Monkhouse's gag book.

The point, though, is that some one-liners, and their build-up, are so bad they are laughable - which of course represents a success in itself.

On Christmas Day 1977, around 29m people tuned in for their seasonal episode. Only this month, the pair's show was voted in one magazine survey as the second most popular television comic moment of all time.

That appeal is captured in the infectious score which accompanies the play that includes 'A' You're Adorable' and climaxes with 'Bring me Sunshine'. As the cold weather closes in, this work is a welcome winter warmer.

The Play What I Wrote, by Hamish McColl, Sean Foley and Eddie Braben. Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Starring: Sean Foley, Hamish McColl and Toby Jones. Currently playing at Wyndham's Theatre, Charing Cross Road, WC2.