22 Dec 2010

Why Eric and Ernie STILL bring sunshine

Victoria Wood first thought ten years ago of ­telling the story of Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise before they were famous.
And, she says, playing Eric’s mum in a TV Christmas special has only confirmed what a great story it is.
‘No one has even been told about when the two of them met and how they developed into a double-act. They weren’t born middle-aged.
‘Like so many people, I was always a big fan, but I’m also intrigued by that period in the theatre during and after the war when Ernie was already a child star. Indeed, he could lay some claim to being Britain’s Mickey Rooney.’
Eric was different, she says, a boy with enormous natural talent and an ambitious mother.
‘I felt it was very much a man’s story, one of friendship between boys and then men. So it seemed better in the hands of a male writer. When I started ­discussing it with that writer, Peter Bowker, I imagined it would concentrate heavily on the two boys.’
But Bowker came up with the idea of ­involving Eric’s parents, Sadie and George, played by Victoria and Vic Reeves.
Despite being an executive producer of the ­production, Eric And Ernie, only rarely during filming did she stray into any discipline other than that of actress. She made just one change to the script — ‘Couldn’t we?’ became ‘Could we not?’ because she felt that’s how the characters would have spoken.
She also occasionally piped up when it came to Eric and Ernie performing comedy routines on stage. But then this is a woman who has twice sold out 15 consecutive nights at the Royal Albert Hall with her one-woman show.

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