Tommy Cooper is alive and well and performing in Manchester as part of the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival!
I was reminded last night of the song from ‘Gypsy’ which states, “you gotta have a gimmick if you wanna get ahead”. Well, John Hewer certainly has found a way forward. If he were only 20 years older, then he would have been utterly perfect; but as it is, he still was able to be amazing, belly-laughingly funny, and wowing an audience of less than 20 in a Box Theatre built into the wonderfully versatile Hope Mill. Hewer’s gimmick is to impersonate the comic genius and legend that was Tommy Cooper. Although this is not just a simple impersonation. He has the comedy, the magic, the skill, all the mannerisms and vocal nuances down to perfection and even does even sound similar too. Give him another 20 years though and he will have the maturity in both voice and looks and this will then be the icing on the cake.
Tommy Cooper’s gimmick was to make it look under-rehearsed or to give away the magic trick to fool the audience, and then surprise them with a trick they didn’t expect. The blue handkerchief dyed white and the white handkerchief dyed blue was a prime example of this. He also told silly jokes and visual gags. Like starting the show by bringing on an electric heater saying, ‘This is to warm up the audience’. Hewer had all of these and more – famous and instantly recognisable as the gags Cooper himself is remembered for. And what’s even more remarkable in the day and age in which we live is that Cooper’s (and therefore Hewer’s) comedy did not rely on a single swearword. It was clean, family entertainment – just as comedy should be. How refreshing!
The evening lasted only one hour, but it could have gone on much longer for my money. It was in two sections with a piano and vocal interlude by Christopher Peters in the style of Noel Coward, and accompanied Hewer (Cooper) in the final song, not so much sung as wailed, ‘We’ll Meet Again’.
His style of comedy and his act required really a much more responsive and communicative audience that he got last night; with sadly only a handful of seats being taken, but he managed with this adroitly and continued as if a response had nevertheless been given. No, not like that, like that…. in fact Just like that!!
reviewer – Alastair MacDougall
on – 8/7/16