Manchester Theatre Awards Review

John Hewer have devised Just Like That! The Tommy Cooper Show: a celebration of the late comedian / magician that transcends the easy option and never becomes a straightforward tribute act. Although full of jokes crowd-pleasing gimmicks are avoided – Cooper’s catch praise is used only once.

The show is structured in the manner of Cooper’s live theatre act. Poker-faced pianist Christopher Peters provides musical backing and, ahem, technical support that ensures very few of the tricks go smoothly. In the style of the old music halls Peters even gets to sing a saucy little ditty at the mid-point of the show.

John Hewer plays the part of Tommy Cooper. This is not a biography so there is no hint of the star’s complex lifestyle with marital infidelity and a drink problem. Cooper died with his boots on and Hewer definitely catches the sense of a born performer who is completely at home on stage. Hewer recreates perfectly the dry bark of Cooper’s speaking voice and his clumsy shambling body language.

Many patrons will already be familiar with Cooper’s routines from television performances but the show gives the chance to appreciate the skilful way that the act builds to a climax. After a series of misfiring magic tricks each act finishes with Hewer pulling off a complex trick perfectly with a casual air as if nothing much has happened. Throughout the show Hewer maintains a steady patter of truly awful jokes that, tonight at least, seem wonderfully funny and serve as a reminder of just how good Tommy Cooper was at his craft.

Review by
David Cunningham, published July 2016