This show was a must-watch for me. I have many fond memories of sitting in front of the TV with my father, watching the comedy genius that was Tommy Cooper and straining to hear his rapid patter over my dad’s guffaws which often ended in coughing fits. I was one of the millions who watched, stunned, when he collapsed in a live TV performance over 30 years ago and was devastated to learn that I would never be able to watch the great man in person. So it was with curiosity that I entered the dark confines of the Underground Venue to see whether John Hewer could honour Cooper’s legacy.
On first impression, Hewer bares little resemblance to the iconic comedian, apart from the bow tie and the trademark fez. However, with a cheeky side-glance here, a shrug and a throaty cackle there, he morphs into Tommy Cooper, probably the result of spending many hours watching old footage and practising his craft in front of the mirror.
It is a jam-packed show and fans of Cooper will not be disappointed. All the favourites are there, including the magic tricks ‘spoon jar, jar spoon’, ‘bottle glass, glass bottle’, and ‘white hanky, white spots’, as well as a glut of the familiar jokes involving ‘the wife’ and trips to the doctor.
There was obvious warmth and affection from the audience for this well-known material and the frisson of excitement was palpable when a particularly loved pun was anticipated. Hewer built on this and formed a camaraderie through well-timed eye contact and engagement with the audience.
There was also a lot of content which was new to me, all delivered in the same quick-fire style and impeccable timing. Hewer was not thrown by a few instances of footsteps crossing the floor above and seamlessly incorporated them into the act with a few quizzical looks.
Hewer had solid support from Christopher Peters, who lent musical accompaniment and provided a musical interlude of a comic ditty in his dulcet tones. He also supplied not-so-subtle assistance to some of the magic tricks, thereby adding to their farcical delivery.
Obviously, nobody can perform Tommy Cooper as well as Cooper himself, but John Hewer does an excellent job at reminding us what we all miss about this comic icon.