A legend laughed back to life

Jus' Like That

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

*****

"THE producer said how do you feel? I said a little funny and he said well you better get out there before it wears off".  Clive Mantle is remarkable as Tommy Cooper and ‘it' certainly didn't wear off. 

Cooper was one of Britain's most talented and best loved comedians.  His singular type of comedy genius is captured completely by Mantle in this sensitive tribute written by John Fisher.

It was said that Cooper would die with his fez on and he did; on stage in front of a live TV audience at Her Majesty's Theatre in London in 1984. The first half of the show is classic Cooper comedy and magic and the audience is delighted with 45 minutes of non-stop laughter.

 At 6'5” wearing size 13 shoes, Mantle has the physical attributes of the bungling magician as he performs tricks which are hilarious when they work and even more hilarious when they don't. Mantle's portrayal of the great man's mannerisms is faultless and his comedic delivery is spot on; at times raising an hysterical response with no more than a look.   His New Year's Eve Hats routine is jaw-achingly funny. Throughout he is ably assisted by Carla Mendonça.  

HEAVY DRINKER                                                

Arthur Askey was an idol of Cooper's and his radio programme plays during the interval and into the opening of Act 2 where we find Cooper in his dressing room.   Here we are given an insight into the man behind the comedy, a heavy drinker with serious health problems who refuses to stop drinking or give up his 40 a day cigar habit.

 His mistress, Mary (also played by Mendonça), struggles to motivate the drunken Cooper on to the stage. He is difficult to communicate with hiding behind one-liners and reflecting on his marriage to Dove; he was known to be hard on those closest to him.

Mantle goes on to recreate more classic Cooper comedy moments including the magic cloak trick and the blindfolded duck. Cooper's death is sensitively handled in the penultimate scene and the final scene finds Cooper safely passed over into comedy paradise, looking forward to meeting another of his heroes Maxie (Max Miller) and telling heavenly gags such as, “my wife is an angel…she's always harping on about something”, accompanied by an angelic Mendonça.

Mantle worked with Geoffrey Durham (The Great Soprendo) to recreate the magic tricks.

The influence of the man is such that Cooperisms are now part of our language.  In interviews Mantle has said that he hopes the show “reminds people what an absolute genius Tommy was”. This tribute reflects exactly that - Jus' like that!

Lynda Ford

Curtain call . . . jus' like that

*** 

THEY used to say Tommy Cooper only had to walk onto a stage and people would burst out laughing. It's not quite like that in this tribute show to the legendary comic magician, but the show contains plenty of humour.

In a Sunday afternoon performance Clive Mantle, best known for his roles in TV's Casualty and Holby City, tried his best to deliver that trademark voice but never managed to get it jus' like Tommy.

Nevertheless, he mastered some of those famous mannerisms and performed those simple tricks pretty well....both the ones that succeeded and the ones that the comedian fluffed, to the delight of his fans.

And there were plenty of Tommy Cooper fans in the Grand audience judging by the number who were on their feet giving Mantle a standing ovation at the final curtain.

The gags were all there - "A friend told me Margate was good for rheumatism....he was right. I went there, and got it."

Cooper died in 1984, on his way to hospital after collapsing on stage at Her Majesty's Theatre, and Mantle was at his best at the start of the second act when the scene switched to Cooper's dressing room where, in vest and white long johns, he was swigging a range of alcoholic drinks and smoking a cigar, clearly unwell before going on stage.

Writer John Fishes has produced a good final scene, too, with Cooper turning up as a piano-playing angel in Heaven, complete with white fez. The usual red fez he used in his act arrived by accident when he was entertaining troops in Egypt, couldn't find his pith helmet, and grabbed a fez off a waiter . . .     Jus' like that! 02-05-10.

 Paul Marston 

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