There were three distinct levels of laughter at Shrewsbury’s Theatre Severn last night … and it all depended on how intimately you knew Tommy Cooper’s material. For example: “I backed a horse to come in at 20 to 1”. There were several titters from people who immediately recognised the joke and knew what was coming. “It came in at half past four”. A greater slice of laughter at the punch line. But the came the double gag few were expecting. “It was so late, it had to tiptoe back into the stables”. Collapse of audience.
It’s impossible for anyone else to be Tommy Cooper…but Daniel Taylor comes remarkably close. He has the daintiest size 14 feet I’ve ever seen as he trips around the stage on tippie toe…trying to do yet another authentically disastrous magic trick.
All the old favourites are there, in full colour and three dimensions. The clumsy routine with his rebellious, disappearing cabin…the blind-folded, card-choosing ,wooden duck…the basket of hats. Just producing that basket from behind his prop-strewn table got me giggling…knowing full well the classic comedy routine that was to follow.
All the while the tightly worded gags keep coming. “Some one left a complimentary note on my car windscreen; Parking…. Fine”. “I met the man who invented the crossword puzzle. I can’t remember his name.
P something T something R.”
This is what we’d come to see…but there were also rather sparse scenes about his private life; droplets of drama. They included his struggle to rise from barrow boy to the BBC; his appalling treatment of his agent (patiently played by Gareth Jones); his alleged philandering; his stealing of other comic’s jokes – and his alcoholism. His even more patient wife (nicely portrayed by Sharon Byatt) was also economical with words. “The only thing you can make vanish is a drink”.
The off-stage stories fall between two bar stools really. There’s not enough to really get to grips with the man (and other dramas have already done it) and the temperature in the auditorium significantly drops. But their brevity brings us back to the comedy soon enough.
We are treated to a recreation of his Royal Variety Performance and his famous meeting with The Queen…also played by Gareth Jones. “Do you like football Ma’am?” “Not really”. “Well, could I have your cup final tickets please?”
It’s a worthy tribute show and a very crowd-pleasing performance …. though I wasn’t sure if I was applauding Daniel Taylor or my memory of the man himself.
More information at www.theatresevern.co.uk