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Review of The Man Called Monkhouse at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Last November I had the eerie experience of seeing Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise resurrected before my eyes in the excellent Eric And Little Ern (review here). The Man Called Monkhouse is an even more scary and uncanny experience, as despite the admittedly superb recreation of Morecambe and Wise, Simon Cartwright truly is as close to the legend that is Bob Monkhouse as you could hope. The mannerisms, the voice, the perfect delivery of the jokes, it is all there. Standing before you at the start of the play finishing of his routine, Monkhouse is alive and well on the stage.

The play itself sits slightly less successfully than the aforementioned Eric And Little Ern, it is a slightly lighter prospect. It does however in its brief run time of roughly an hour provide an insight into the troubled and very much, as used in the play, marmite performer. The play revolves around the time of the well publicised stolen joke books and the twentieth anniversary of the death of his writing partner Denis Goodwin. Our created play involves Monkhouse dealing with a less than enthusiastic police officer as well as trying to write a eulogy for Denis.

So on the nicely designed set by Alex Marker constituting of Monkhouse's study, the play weaves Monkhouses back catalogue of jokes into this collection of events. It works perfectly well, if a little episodically. The best part actually comes later in the play when dealing with his history with the press and his son, "You can always tell when a journalist is lying... their lips move." This period provides an emotional punch like no other part and puts into fine context the cruel nature that sadly our press has.

For me, Bob Monkhouse was one of the greatest and was a staple diet for me growing up in the eighties and The Man Called Monkhouse provided some tingling moments. The hair on my neck literally stood on end when I heard the tune for Bob Says Opportunity Knocks again after so long.


For those split seconds I was ten again and in a very different world. This is indeed the magic of these types of shows, like Eric And Little Ern. Providing fond memories and joy, and perhaps to better times?

The Man Called Monkhouse may be a little light on content in places and is perhaps also too short as you do feel when leaving you wanted more. However it wields a truly exceptional performance from Simon Cartwright and for any fan of Bob is a must see.

My survey says: ««««


Performance viewed: Tuesday 29th September, 2015 at the Royal & Derngate (Royal).

The Man Called Monkhouse is currently on tour, for details of venues can be found at their website at http://monkhouseplay.com/

For further details about the Royal & Derngate visit their website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/


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