More Things To Do in York and beyond when the tooth fairy visits and gaps must be filled. Hutch’s List No. 24, from The Press

Driller thriller: Birmingham Rep in David Walliams’ Demon Dentist at the Grand Opera House, York

COMEDY aplenty, musical collaborations, dental mystery adventures and soul seekers make a convincing case for inclusion in Charles Hutchinson’s list.

Children’s show of the week: David Walliams’ Demon Dentist, Grand Opera House, York, Thursday, 1.30pm, 6.30pm; Friday, 10.30am, 6.30pm; Saturday, 11am, 3pm

CHILDREN’S author David Walliams has teamed up with Birmingham Stage Company for Demon Dentist, their third collaboration after Gangsta Granny and Billionaire Boy, aapted and directed by Neal Foster.

Join Alfie and Gabz as they investigate the strange events happening in their hometown, where children are leaving their teeth for the tooth fairy and waking up to find odd things under their pillows. No-one could have dreamed what Alfie and Gabz would discover on coming face to face with the demon dentist herself in this thrilling adventure story. Box office:

Isabelle Farah: Sadness meets humour in Ellipsis at Theatre@41

Therapy session of the week: Isabelle Farah: Ellipsis, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, tonight, 7.45pm

STAND-UP is the outlet that keeps you sane, where the nature of the game is to turn everything into punchlines. But can you do it if you feel all-consuming sadness, ponders comedian/actor/writer/nightmare Isabelle Farah in Ellipsis.

“I wanted my therapist to come and watch me to see how hilarious I am, but I thought how odd it would be performing to someone who’s seen so far behind my mask,” she says. “Would he even find it funny or just sit there knowing what I was hiding?” Cue her exploration of grief, authenticity and being funny.

Elinor Rolfe Johnson: Soprano soloist at York Minster tonight

Classical concert of the week: Vaughan Williams: A Sea Symphony, York Minster, tonight, 7.30pm

YORK Musical Society and Philharmonischer Chor Münster from York’s twin city in Germany mark 30 years of concert collaborations with Vaughan Williams’s A Sea Symphony, using text from Walt Whitman poems.

Toward The Unknown Region, another Whitman setting, takes a journey from darkness to light, followed by the beautiful orchestral work Serenade in A minor. Tonight’s soloists are soprano Elinor Rolfe Johnson and bass Julian Tovey. Box office: 01904 623568 or; on the door from 6.45pm.

Frankie Boyle’s tour poster for Lap Of Shame, doing the rounds on tour at the Grand Opera House, York

Great Scot of the week: Frankie Boyle, Lap Of Shame, Grand Opera House, York, Sunday, 7.30pm

SCATHING Scottish comedian, surrealist, presenter and writer Frankie Boyle, 50, is on tour. “Buy a ticket, because by the time I arrive, the currency will be worthless and you and your neighbours part of a struggling militia that could probably use a few laughs,” advises the often-controversial Glaswegian.

Only a handful of tickets are still available at Please note: no latecomers, no readmittance.

Scott Bennett: Heading to Selby Town Hall

Great Scott of the week: Scott Bennett, Selby Town Hall, Sunday, 7.30pm

SCOTT Bennett has been blazing a trail through the stand-up circuit for the best part of a decade, writing for Chris Ramsey and Jason Manford too.

After regular appearances on BBC Radio 4’s The News Quiz and The Now Show and his debut on BBC One’s Live At The Apollo, he presents Great Scott! in Selby. Box office:

Kiki Dee & Carmelo Luggeri: On the road to Helmsley Arts Centre

Rescheduled gig of the week: Kiki Dee & Carmelo Luggeri, Helmsley Arts Centre, Sunday, 7.30pm

MOVED from March 3, Bradford soul singer Kiki Dee and guitarist Carmelo Luggeri head to Helmsley for an acoustic journey through stories and songs, from Kate Bush and Frank Sinatra covers to Kiki’s hits Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, I Got The Music In Me, Loving And Free and Amoureuse. Songs from 2022’s The Long Ride Home should feature too. Box office: 01439 771700 or

Neil Warnock: Moving his York Barbican show from June 15 to next May

Re-arranged show announcement: Neil Warnock, Are You With Me?, York Barbican, moving from June 15 to May 31 2024

ARE you with Neil Warnock on Thursday? Not any more, after “unforeseen circumstances” forced the former York City captain and Scarborough manager (and town chiropodist) to postpone his talk tour until next spring. Tickets remain valid.

After guiding Huddersfield Town to safety from the threat of relegation in the 2022-2023 season, Warnock, 74, was to have gone on the road to discuss his record number of games as a manager, 16 clubs and 8 promotions, from non-league to Premier League, and a thousand stories along the way that have never been told. Now those tales must wait…and whose season might he rescue in 2023-24 before then?! Box office:

Kyshona: Protest singing in Pocklington

Discovery of the week: Kyshona, Pocklington Arts Centre, Thursday, 8pm

UNRELENTING in her pursuit of the healing power of song, community connector Kyshona Armstrong has the background of a licensed music therapist, the curiosity of a writer, the resolve of an activist and the voice of a protest singer.

As witnessed on her 2020 album Listen, she blends roots, rock, R&B and folk with her lyrical clout. Past collaborators include Margo Price and Adia Victoria.  Now comes her Pocklington debut. Box office: 01759 301547 or

The Illegal Eagles: Taking it easy at York Barbican

Tribute show of the week: The Illegal Eagles, York Barbican, Friday, 8pm

THE Illegal Eagles celebrate the golden music of the legendary West Coast country rock band with musical prowess, attention to detail and showmanship.  Expect to hear Hotel California, Desperado, Take It Easy, New Kid In Town, Life In The Fast Lane and many more. Box office:

Shalamar: Toasting 40 years of Friends at York Barbican

Soul show of the week: Shalamar Friends 40th Anniversary Tour, York Barbican, June 17, 7.30pm

SHALAMAR mark the 40th anniversary of Friends, the platinum-selling album that housed four Top 20 singles, A Night To Remember, Friends, There It Is and I Can Make You Feel Good, outsold Abba, Queen, The Rolling Stones, Culture Club and Meat Loaf that year and spawned Jeffrey Daniels’ dance moves on Top of The Pops.

Further Shalamar hits Take That To The Bank, I Owe You One, Make That Move, Dead Giveaway and Disappearing Act feature too.  Special guests are Jaki Graham and Cool Notes’ Lauraine McIntosh. Box office:

The poster for the Academy of St Olave’s summer concert

Celebrating England’s musical legacy: Academy of St Olave’s, St Olave’s Church, Marygate, York, June 17, 8pm

THE Academy of St Olave’s chamber orchestra rounds off its 2022-23 season with a summer concert centred on England’s musical legacy, from symphonies written for
London audiences by the great Austrian composers Mozart and Haydn, to works by
English composers Frederick Delius, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Paul Patterson.

The concert is book-ended by Mozart’s first symphony and Haydn’s hundredth, known as “The Military”. Mozart composed his work in London during his family’s Grand Tour of
Europe in 1764, when the boy wonder was eight. Likewise, Haydn’s work was one of his 12 “London symphonies”, to be performed during his second visit to England in 1794-95. Box office: or on the door.

Mozart 1764
Haydn 1794-5
Delius 1911
RVW 1904-7
Patterson 1999

In Focus: Who are the York community chorus in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Julius Caesar at York Theatre Royal?

Community chorus sextet Hilary Conroy, Astrid Hanlon, Elaine Harvey, Stephanie Hesp, Anna Johnston and Frances Simon with music director Jessa Liversidge, right

SIX women – all inspirational leaders within the York and North Yorkshire community – will form the Chorus when the Royal Shakespeare Company’s touring production of Julius Caesar visits York Theatre Royal from June 13 to 17.

Step forward Hilary Conroy, Astrid Hanlon, Elaine Harvey, Stephanie Hesp, Anna Johnston and Frances Simon, under the musical direction of community choir leader Jessa Liversidge, from Easingwold, with Zoe Colven-Davies as chorus coordinator.

The women in next week’s chorus have roles in the community spanning activism and campaigning to charity and social work, lecturing, teaching and coaching. In their day-to-day lives they each make an impact on the York community, whether through fighting for social change, championing community voices, supporting vulnerable groups or encouraging engagement in the creative arts. 

Between them, they lead and support a diverse range of groups and community causes, including supporting disabled and neurodivergent people, those impacted by dementia and mental health issues, people affected by loneliness and those suffering from domestic abuse. They empower others through the creative arts and performance and champion wellbeing in marginalised groups. 

Leading the York group is music director Jessa Liversidge, calling on her wealth of experience with community choirs, inclusive singing groups and working with people of all ages to inspire them through music. 

Juliet Forster, York Theatre Royal’s creative director, says: “It’s a huge privilege for us to have these voices heard alongside the RSC’s actors, and we are so thankful for their input and commitment to the project. 

“This production explores what makes a leader and asks questions about gender and power. Who better to take part than women who are already leaders in our community and in their workplace? 

“The opportunity is exciting and empowering and is strong evidence of how committed the RSC is to meaningful collaboration with its regional theatre partners. We are incredibly proud to be able to contribute a local perspective into this nationwide conversation, and I can’t wait to see what our York women do.”

Explaining the role that the York community chorus will play, RSC director Atri Banerjee says: “Julius Caesar is a play about a nation in crisis, a play about the gulf between politicians and the people they are trying to rule.

“It just makes so much sense to me that this production would include ‘real’ people from where we are touring. So, alongside the professional acting company, we have found a way of integrating the communities from all the areas the show is playing.

“Community work has always been important to me, making work with non-professionals, whether that’s young people or non-professional adults.

“It’s not unusual for productions of Julius Caesar to have a chorus who come on to be the citizens of Rome and say ‘Read The Will’ and then you never see them again. But I wanted to include them to amplify the supernatural, apocalyptic terror within the play. They’ll be singing, using their voices, and will be present on stage for significant parts of the play. They will be something akin to the chorus you’d see in a Greek tragedy watching the action.

“Premonitions of death really. Premotions of figures who embody death in ways that go beyond these characters.”

Royal Shakespeare Company in Julius Caesar, York Theatre Royal, June 13 to 17, 7.30pm plus 2pm Thursday and Saturday matinees. Box office: 01904 623568 or

REVIEW: Leeds Playhouse, Birmingham Rep and Fiery Angel in Of Mice And Men, Leeds Playhouse, until May 27 ****

William Young’s Lennie in Of Mice And Men at Leeds Playhouse. All pictures: Kris Askey

LIKE a hamster wheel, Of Mice And Men keeps coming round, chiming uncomfortably with our times once more with its themes of economic migration, racism, prejudice, misogyny and exclusion.

Last staged at the Playhouse in March 2014 in Mark Rosenblatt’s risk-taking production with a score by Avant-Americana composer, singer and musician Heather Christian, it returns in a powerhouse Leeds Playhouse collaboration with the Second City’s Birmingham Rep and London producers Fiery Angel.

What’s more, John Steinbeck’s novella of the Great American Depression, adapted into a three-act play by the American writer himself in 1937, is in the hands of last summer’s Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony director Iqbal Khan, Birmingham Rep’s associate director.

Maddy Hill as Curley’s Wife

He parades flair for theatre on a big scale to match the vast and dry American plains – and yet he achieves intimacy too, even in the expanses of the Playhouse’s Quarry Theatre, as the play’s first act charts the bond between two migrant workers, smart George (Tom McCall) and the towering, sweet-natured but dangerously strong Lennie (William Young).

They are men on the move, out of necessity, escaping Lennie’s latest unfortunate incident, desperately looking for work in straitened times and competing with other men to do so. Same story, more than 80 years later, only now men must travel farther against a tide of Brexit bellicosity and Stop The Boats posturing.

Yet, as the itinerant workers establish over a can of beans and a wood fire under the stars, this is a story of durable friendship and survival, one rooted in the hope, always on the horizon, of saving enough nickels to buy their own small farmstead with chickens and rabbits.

Of Mice And Men cast members, from left: Reece Pantry (Crooks), Maddy Hill (Curley’s Wife), William Young (Lennie), Tom McCall (George), Riad Richie (Curley) and Lee Ravitz (Candy)

This is the American Dream at its most primal, with a shared longing for a place they can call home for the protective, cautious, steely George and the innocent Lennie.

The problem is: fantasy always meets the reality of prejudices, in the tinderbox of the bunkhouse and barns of Curley’s Californian ranch, as hired hands George and Lennie start their latest shift of hard graft and hard bunks.

Curley (Riad Richie) is trigger happy, jumped up, restless over what his neglected, desperately lonely, unloved, Hollywood-fixated new wife – the never named Curley’s Wife (Maddy Hill) – may or may not be doing, in need of company and connection amid so much machismo. He has his eye on her roving eye. Trouble this way comes, tragedy too.

Tom McCall’s George

Under Khan’s direction (with resident director Laura Ryder overseeing the tour), the language is muscular, confrontational, enflamed too, carrying the greatest weight, for all the visual impact of Ciaran Bagnall’s set and dustbowl lighting, with its steel frameworks for bunkbeds and huge barns beneath wooden beams that lower as the play progresses to give a sense of compression.

Curley’s Wife is not alone in being subjected to exclusion. So too is Crooks (Reece Pantry), the blacksmith segregated on account of being black, with only his books for company.

McCall, Young, Hill and Pantry go to the heart in devastating, terrific central performances, alongside Lee Ravitz’s Candy, always keen to please as the ultimate team player.

Lee Ravitz’s Candy

As in 2014, music plays its part with dustbowl country songs on guitar and a dramatic soundscape by Elizabeth Purnell. Puppeteer Jake Benson’s work with Candy’s stinking old dog adds poignancy to that ruthless scene and Kay Wilton’s period costume designs are spot on, especially for Curley’s Wife.

Of Mice And Men will return, you know it will, because times move on but the problems do not. Steinbeck’s eloquence shames us and hope is crushed again, like a puppy in Lennie’s hands.  

Box office: 0113 213 7700 or

Reece Pantry’s Crooks in Of Mice And Men

This one will run and run as Pilot Theatre present premiere of Manjeet Mann’s teenage tale Run, Rebel at Theatre Royal

Keep on running: A scene from Pilot Theatre’s Run, Rebel, with Kuldip Singh-Barmi’s  movement direction the key to capturing the sensation of running. Picture: Pamela Raith

BLACK Country actress and writer Manjeet Mann was feeling directionless.

Her father had died, she was working as a personal trainer as well as treading the boards, but getting out of bed was becoming a struggle. Where had her drive gone?

“I thought, ‘right, I’m going to run a marathon’,” says Manjeet, “I started the 22-week plan, where if I just run the prescribed 20 minutes each day, I’m winning – and I did. I got out of my slump.

“I’m an advocate of how sport can really help your mental health, and that’s when I thought about writing the book.”

The book in question is Manjeet’s multi award-winning debut verse novel, Run, Rebel, now transferred to the stage in Manjeet’s own adaptation, premiered by York company Pilot Theatre in the latest co-production with York Theatre Royal, Mercury Theatre, Colchester, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, and Derby Theatre.

Children’s author Manjeet, who was a runner in her schooldays, tells the story of schoolgirl Amber Rai, 15, who is trapped by her Punjabi family’s rules, their expectations, her own fears, yet on the running track feels completely free. There the world slows down as her body speeds up.

Jessica Kaur and Pushpinder Chani in Run, Rebel. Picture: Pamela Raith

Defining her place in that tangled world, Amber (played by Jessica Kaur) navigates a difficult home life and bullying at school, her sanctuary coming through running and running fast. Now is the time to kick-start a revolution, for her mother, her sister and herself in a play suitable for 11-year-olds and upwards that addresses violence, domestic violence, alcoholism, bullying and discrimination and makes reference to “honour” killings.

“Running is Amber’s one form of escape, and that story partly comes from personal experience at school,” says Manjeet, who now lives by the sea, where she swims every day, weather permitting.

“The other symbolism of running is that life is a  marathon, not a sprint, and there will be knockbacks and injuries along the way.”

The name of Amber was chosen with significance too. “I like my main protagonists’ names to have meaning. Amber has a few meanings, depending on what culture you’re from. Amber is a healing stone and a stone for courage too,” says Manjeet, explaining her choice.

She had been equally particular in seeking out Pilot Theatre for the premiere, aware of the impact of their co-productions with the York, Colchester, Coventry and Derby theatres since they forged a partnership in 2018 to develop, produce and present theatre for younger audiences, adapted from young adult novels.

Run, Rebel follows Malorie Blackman’s Noughts & Crosses, Alex Wheatle’s Crongton Knights and Zana Fraillon’s The Bone Sparrow on to the touring stage, this time directed by Tessa Walker with a combination of physical theatre  and “mesmerising visuals”.

Jessica Kaur, front, as Amber, with Asha Kingsley and Simran Kular in Pilot Theatre’s production of Manjeet Mann’s Run, Rebel. Picture: Pamela Raith

As Pilot Theatre artistic director Esther Richardson reflects: “Our project has sought to bring brand new stories to the stage for young adults and secondary school-age children, introducing them to characters who are living and experiencing the world as they are too in the 2020s.

“The goal has been to inspire an expansion and diversification of the range of work that is made and programmed for this age group, including on the school curriculum: we’ve aimed to enable theatres and schools to offer to young people and their carers and educators, narratives that are fresher and may feel more immediately relevant and relatable to their lives, than might be said of existing set and ‘classic’ texts.”

Hence Manjeet and Tessa’s determination that Pilot “would be the very best company to collaborate with”.

“I’d worked with a Tessa at Birmingham Rep, where I was an associate for a couple of years, when she was a mentor as well as working on projects with me, so we became great friends,” recalls Manjeet, whose two solo tour shows, Flying Solo and A Dangerous Woman, were directed by Tessa.

“The book came out in March 2020 – what a great year to become an author! – and she read it in 2021. I said I could really see it as a play, and after we did research and development with Arts Council funding, she thought, ‘Yes, this does have legs’.”

Unbeknown to Manjeet, Tessa gave a copy of the first draft to Esther Richardson, a draft that Manjeet considered to be “rubbish”. Nevertheless, Esther, who had done a previous R&D project with Manjeet, had “really liked” the author’s second book, 2021’s The Crossing. So far, so good.

Manjeet Mann: Novelist, playwright and actress

“Then I told her it would only be Pilot that I would want to do Run, Rebel on stage.” A production was born, and Manjeet took on her new writing challenge, adapting a story for the theatre. “It’s been a real learning curve,” she says. “I was naïve going into it, thinking ‘it’s my book, it’ll be easier for me to adapt, right? I’m not reinventing the wheel’. But I was!

“The first draft was very much just the book on stage, and then I started doing something very different with it, and now the play is a mix of the two. I found that things in the book can go in a different order on stage, and what drives a book  doesn’t necessarily drive what’s going on on stage.

“With Tessa being not only an amazing director, but a great dramaturg [script editor] too, it became really fun to do, especially when I put the book down, because I knew the story, and just let the play live.”

Has Manjeet participated in the rehearsals? “As an actor, I know what it’s like to have the writer in the room,” she says. “Tessa said, ‘Come in as often as you want’, but I think it can be stifling to be there.

“It’s best to leave it to the directors and actors, so I was only there on the first three days for the readthrough.”

Running is at the core of Run, Rebel. “The cast has been working with movement director Kuldip Singh-Barmi, who’s fabulous, to represent ‘running’ with lots of movement sequences in the performance,” says Manjeet.

Pilot Theatre’s poster for Run, Rebel, running (what else!) at York Theatre Royal from March 7 to 11

“I remember watching a comedian, Richard Gadd, who ran on a treadmill for the entire show, Monkey See Monkey Do [his story of training for the Man’s Man Final in Mansfield, ‘the ultimate competition of manly masculinity’]. That was awesome! The running in Run, Rebel won’t be too literal; it’s more showing running in a stylistic way, which really works.”

Manjeet’s next book had been scheduled for publication in 2023 until the task of adapting Run, Rebel for Pilot’s premiere took precdence during the past year. “It’s now coming out in June 2024,” she says

“It’s another verse novel, with another underdog , another female protagonist, set in India. She’s a teenager who gets accused of being a witch and then comes back later to take her revenge.

“There are 2,000 deaths a year of women accused of being witches, but the true fuigure is probably higher because they’re not all reported. The women are burnt or hanged from a tree, or witch doctors give them something that will kill them in the end, like having chillis put down their throat. It’s horrific.”

The title? Wait and see: it is yet to be confirmed with the publishers.

Pilot Theatre in Run, Rebel at York Theatre Royal, March 7 to 11, 7pm, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; 1pm, Wednesday to Friday matinees; 2pm, Saturday matinee. Box office: 01904 623568 or

Copyright of The Press, York

REVIEW: Charles Hutchinson’s verdict on The Play What I Wrote, York Theatre Royal

Slap-stick: The dustpan-wielding Thom Tuck left has a dust-up with double-act partner Dennis Herdman in The Play What I Wrote. Picture: Manuel Harlan

The Play What I Wrote, Birmingham Rep, at York Theatre Royal until Saturday, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: 01904 623568 or

THE Play What I Wrote premiered in 2001 with its canny critique of fractious double acts and boundless love for Morecambe & Wise.

If anything, Eric & Ernie now cast an even longer shadow amid a paucity of new comedy duos on TV to follow Mayall & Edmondson, Ant & Dec, Fry & Laurie, Lee & Herring, French & Saunders, Mitchell & Webb, Armstrong & Miller, Coogan & Brydon, Mel & Sue, Newman & Baddiel, Reeves & Mortimer, The Mighty Boosh and Little Britain.

Podcasts appear to be the more favoured home now for comic jousting. That leaves York’s burgeoning satirical musical duo Fladam – Florence Poskitt and Adam Sowter – as both a rarity and a breath of nostalgic fresh air in a vacuum of such couplings on stage, although Nettle Soup’s Georgia Firth and Josh Liew showed new possibilities for partnerships in their verbatim theatre piece Stones On The Riverbed at York Theatre Royal’s Green Shoots showcase earlier this month.

The Play What I Wrote now feels part of the past, its patter and patterns of comedy from a bygone age, never being quite as funny as Eric and Ernie and only making you wish the long-gone duo could bring more of their vintage sunshine: Vitamin ‘C’ here standing for comedy.

Writers Hamish McColl and Sean Foley know more than a thing or two about double acts themselves, having been partners in The Right Size from 1988 to 2006. For West End and Broadway hit The Play What I Wrote, they teamed up with Eddie Braben, the chap what wrote little Ern’s plays, and the duo starred in the premiere with Toby Jones, no less.

Dennis Herdman’s Dennis, left, and Thom Tuck’s Thom argue over who should play Eric in their Morecambe & Wise tribute. Picture: Manuel Harlan

For this Birmingham Rep revival, director Foley has brought together the lanky and lean Dennis Herdman and shorter, sterner Thom Tuck, new to each other but a natural dovetail with their contrasting nonsense-aplenty and no-nonsense demeanours.

They play Herdman & Tuck, a double act in trouble after more than a decade together. Tuck, the prickly one, has grown professionally jealous of Herdman, the funny one who gets the gags and the laughs.

Tuck insists the partnership will continue only if they present the latest of his 72 unpublished plays, A Tight Squeeze For The Scarlet Pimple, a French Revolution epic, with a guest star.

Through a series of elaborate deceptions, Herdman and vainglorious producer David Pugh (one of a handful of increasingly manic, prima-donna cameos for a long-suffering Mitesh Soni) dupe Tuck into thinking the play will be presented with Sir Ian McKellen in the company. In reality, Herdman has signed up the comic duo for a Morecambe & Wise tribute, minus Sir Ian.

Hindered by two of their backstage team being ruled out by Covid, the opening performance had a feel of “the play must go on” about it, with more noise than usual behind the golden curtain – and an impromptu explanation from the production manager in a stop for a more complicated scene change.

The auditorium was far from packed, never easy for performers needing to break down the fourth wall to establish a rapport pronto, and consequently Herdman and Tuck’s comic rhythm was not quite there, but then they are playing a failing comic coupling who have to try too hard for laughs. That is their double-edged sword, requiring Herdman and Tuck to be funnier than their act.

This act has legs…or does it? Thom Tuck, left, and Dennis Herdman as failing, fading double act Herman & Tuck. Picture: Manuel Harlan

You could sense the audience expecting more Morecambe & Wise badinage, and whenever we were given tantalising tasters, the mood visibly perked up. Eric & Ernie are a hard act to follow, particularly when they keep hovering in the shadows here.

Under Foley’s direction, the comic tone is bordering on the delirious but thankfully everything picked up after the interval, acquiring a much needed fifth gear with the heavily trailered arrival of a surprise guest. Not Sir Ian (although apparently, he has popped up in the past), but Sue Holderness, best known for playing Boycie’s wife, Marlene, in Only Fools And Horses.

The rest of the week’s guest line-up remains hush-hush, but one upcoming star was very much at home on this very stage only a matter of weeks ago. No more clues.

Sue’s role – or Dame Sue as they honoured to call her – was to be subjected with good grade and good humour to humiliation and mockery at the hands of both Tuck’s hapless, innuendo-bedevilled script and the constant comic interjections of Herdman in playful, handicapping Morecambe tradition.

By now, bolstered by Holderness’s joie de vivre, Herdman and Tuck have found their mojo, never better than when competing to play Eric, and Foley and McColl’s post-modern analysis of the often-complex chemistry and vulnerability of double acts turns from bittersweet to sharply smart yet affectionate.

So much so that the happy conclusion finds Herdman and Tuck tucked up in bed, just like Morecambe & Wise in Braben’s scripts, affirming why each still needs the other, but overall, 21 years since the premiere, even nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.

Verdict: ***

The Play What I Wrote doubles up on double acts with nod to Eric and Ernie in York Theatre Royal week of mystery guests

The long and short of it: Dennis Herdman and Thom Tuck argue over who should be Eric Morecambe in their Morecambe & Wise tribute. Picture: Manuel Harlan

THE Play What I Wrote is both a dissection of double acts and a celebration of Morecambe and Wise.

Written by The Right Size comic coupling of Sean Foley and Hamish McColl in tandem with Eddie Braben, the chap what wrote little Ern’s plays, the West End and Broadway hit is doing the rounds anew, playing York Theatre Royal from Monday for a week in a Birmingham Rep touring production directed by artistic director Foley.

Premiered in 2001, Foley and McColl wanted their play to be inspired by Eric and Ernie rather than a tribute act to the beloved double act, and so they came up with a comedy duo of their own.

“The show is a tease,” says Foley of the combination of the expected and unexpected. “It’s a really lovely dance between the idea of you’re watching a Morecambe and Wise tribute show but actually you’re not. So, whenever we tease people with ‘here’s a bit of them’, they come to understand what the show is – which is a sophisticated but daft homage.”

The duo’s partnership is in trouble after 12 years. The shorter, prickly one, has grown professionally jealous of the tall one with the gags, insisting the failing partnership will revive only if they present the latest of his 72 unpublished plays, a very serious French Revolution epic with a hapless, innuendo-bedevilled script and a guest star.

Through a series of elaborate deceptions, the lanky one and oleaginous producer David Pugh dupe the little’un into thinking the play will be presented with Sir Ian McKellen in the company. In reality, he has signed up the comic duo for a Morecambe & Wise tribute, minus Sir Ian.

The Play What I Wrote is at once a delightful nostalgic re-creation of Eric and Ernie’s comic sunshine – you wish for even more of the old magic – and a smart post-modern analysis of the often complex chemistry and vulnerability of double acts. In a show of unalloyed joy, the happy conclusion finds the comedy duo abed, just like Morecambe & Wise, affirming why each needs the other.

The two clashing comedians will be played by Dennis Herdman and Thom Tuck, joined by Mitesh Soni, playing their comedy sidekick Arthur and all manner of other roles.

The cast can spot quickly if Eric and Ernie devotees are present. “But I don’t actually think it’s important at all for people to know Morecambe and Wise,” says Tuck.

“It’s just an extra sprinkling for the people who enjoy it, but at the first reference to them you can tell what percentage of the audience are Morecambe and Wise fans because you can hear the murmur ‘they’re doing it’.

“In a later scene, we do ‘What do you think of the show so far? Rubbish’. Some days that will get a round of applause and some days it will get a big laugh, but it doesn’t really matter between the two.”

The Play What I Wrote nods to Eric and Ernie by having a mystery guest in each performance, in keeping with their television shows: a convention that requires the cast to rehearse constantly with new actors.

During the Birmingham run, Tom Hiddleston, Kara Tointon and Sue Holderness were among those to pop up, but the guests for York remain a mystery, as an exploratory call to communications manager Amy Goodman affirmed.

“There are big changes depending on the guest star and the audience will react differently as well,” says Herdman. “They all bring something unique and change our dynamic instantly and we’re all either fawning around them or trying to pull the rug from under them.

“It’s fun! It’s lovely to have them on stage and be able to take the mickey and play with them. They’ve all been up for it and most have been terrified as well! It’s nice that they have a certain status and yet they are also clearly flesh and blood and a nervous human being.”

Director Foley praises the energy of Herdman, Tuck and Soni. “What is dazzling, and these guys do it completely brilliantly, is making all of the show look like it’s a high-wire act and things can go wrong at any time. That is really brilliant comic acting.

“Someone said to Eric Morecambe, ‘I love all your improv lines and your ad-libs’ and he responded, ‘It takes a lot of rehearsal to get them right’ and that’s the same with The Play What I Wrote.

“With this show you need the chemistry between the cast. We were very lucky that from final auditions, when we saw Dennis and Thom together, they were immediately a double act. Then we added Mitesh in and it just worked.”

Tuck notes how Eric and Ernie’s humour crosses generations through fitting into a comic tradition. “The ingrained thing about British people is that we like cheekiness and there’s a sort of ‘anti-establishmentism’ in Morecambe and Wise’s work,” he says.

“Whether it’s a look direct to camera which says ‘we know this is stupid’ or the play with the guest star, it’s ‘let’s muck about’. British audiences from variety onwards have had that sort of fun. It’s always high on the priority list.”

The Play What I Wrote, York Theatre Royal, June 27 to July 2. Box office:  01904 623568 or at