Hi Daniel, thank you for talking to Break A Leg. Tell me about the production and what the audience can expect.
The show is really a celebration of the great man’s life and the events that led him to television stardom – not to mention the people who shaped him. Of course, there’s plenty of the one-liners that Tommy is famous for, and the misfiring magic tricks that really made him unique. It’s loads of fun, and has something for all the family.
It really all begins at the travelling Army concert party where he first met his wife-to-be Gwen, affectionately known to Tommy as ‘Dove’. From there, we also follow Tommy’s relationship with his long-suffering manager Miff Ferrie. Miff is a very interesting character, a dour Scotsman who doesn’t give much away – he’s definitely more of a businessman than a showman, and he never really saw eye to eye with Tommy. I suspect the problem was that Tommy was often a bit of a handful!
Despite the tough times in Tommy’s life and the impact his actions had on those around him, the show is in no way negative. We acknowledge the darker times, but that’s not what the play is about. It’s about bringing Tommy back to life as best I can, and celebrating the rise to fame of a remarkable, and incredibly funny, man.
What are your memories of Tommy Cooper?
I simply remember him being absolutely hilarious – even if he was just standing there and not saying very much. It’s that innocent look of mania on his face, as though he can’t quite believe where he is. I thought he was truly hilarious – And I still do.
I also think of Tommy doing his acts while I’m playing him, which is sometimes a bit awkward. He just makes me laugh out loud, so I’ll just end up having a moment to myself on stage, thinking about him. It’s ridiculous!
Any personal favourite gags or skits of his?
There are so many, I don’t know where to start – Everyone loves the ‘Glass Bottle, Bottle Glass’ routine. And of course, I love ‘Spoon Jar, Jar Spoon’. The ‘Hats’ routine – I love doing the ‘Hats’ routine, because it’s just chaos. I love the chaos of it!
As for jokes…
I backed a horse at 20:1. It came in at 20 past four.
I went to see the doctor today, I had to – he’s not been well.
I went to see the doctor today and said ‘doctor, I’ve broken my arm in three places’. He said ‘Well stay away from those places.’
What is your personal highlight of this show?
The End. No! When I walk into the pub… Haha, just kidding!
There’s this wonderful moment where Tommy starts talking about the fez – and he goes into why he starts wearing it. His wife, Gwen, has knocked the hat off his head, annoyed at him. He quietly picks up fez and starts talking to audience – breaking the fourth wall, of course – and it’s the only time he ever talks in this way to the audience. The rest of the time Tommy is ‘performing’, but this allows you to see the really man behind the act.
What does the impersonation process involve for you as a performer?
I wouldn’t really say this is an impersonation, instead we try to make it as though Tommy is back in the room. We want the audience to feel like they are seeing the real thing. So, he needs to be a real person on a stage, complete with vulnerabilities and quirks. When you start out playing a figure like Tommy, to some extent, you are doing an impersonation. But that’s not what we’re trying to do in the show. We’re trying to – dare I say – ‘bring him back to life’.
Finally, sell the show to me, why should people buy a ticket?
Come and have a good laugh with us – it’s a great night out. Tommy’s humour is timeless and suitable for all ages, so bring the kids. It’s also an opportunity to reminisce for all the oldies (like myself!). It’s good light-hearted entertainment for the whole family, and we aim to make you laugh from the beginning to the end.
Thanks to Daniel for a great interview, can’t wait to see the show on 4 February!