Tommy Cooper was a one-off. Much-copied but nevertheless unique. A man who could have an audience in stitches just by walking on stage.
That Damian Williams matched that feat simply by donning his fez and walking to the front of the spotlit Key Theatre stage last night, is testament to both the writing (by Tom Green) of Being Tommy Cooper and the talent of the show’s star.
The play looks at Cooper’s life from a moment captured in time. It’s 1954 and Tommy is in his Las Vegas hotel room, bottle of liquor in hand, when he hears from his agent that the show has been pulled.The audiences loved him but hated the show, he’s told.
Is it back home or on to New York?
From there we hear of the “other” Tommy Cooper. A classic, troubled, flawed genius. His frustrations lead him to drink, and those frustrations, we hear, are taken out physiacally on his long-suffering wife.
Then there’s the mistress Mary (Rebecca Thorn), seemingly besotted with the Cooper the performer, caught up in his celebrity life.
And his agent Miff Ferrie (Halcro Johnston), who tightfist Cooper thinks is milking him dry.
There is ineraction between the characters - and former Vaudevillian jokebook seller Billy Glasson (Morgan Deare) - on the tight, cramped set, but it is the monologues which are superbly crafted and delivered and really bring the stoy to life.
None more so, of course, than Cooper’s. The running theme of the night, and the highlight if truth be told, is when Cooper takes centre stage, performing. The voice, dishevelled look, instantly recognisable mannerisms and catchphrases, are brilliantly captured by Williams who cracks Tommy’s corny jokes and performs his superbly crafted failing magic tricks like the man himself.
And, as Tommy would have said, you can’t say fairer than that.
Thank you very much.
Being Tommy Cooper is also on at The Key Theatre tonight at 7.30pm. Contact the Key box office on 01733 207239 or visit www.vivacity-peterborough.com