SO one night a wife comes home and finds her husband in bed with a dummy. Sounds like the start of a classic Eric Morecambe gag doesn’t it? But it’s actually the pun-filled position actor Bob Golding found himself in when he was preparing to play the beloved comedian in Morecambe, a whistle-stop tour of the funnyman’s life.
“There had never really been a play about Eric Morecambe before,“ says Bob. “The challenge was how to do a one-man play about a double act.
“It is peppered with their sketches and bits about their partnership, but it is primarily about him.“
Written by his good friend Tim Withnall, it reveals details about his struggle to the top, such as a letter in which his mother wishes her 21-year-old son ‘sunshine’.
Bob plays every part in the show, from Eric’s mother and father and even Bruce Forsyth, and all the best and brightest sketches, from the piano concerto with Andre Previn to The Stripper breakfast sketch, get a mention.
So what about poor little Ern?
“Tim came up with the idea of a ventriloquist’s dummy like Eric had. On paper it might seem dismissive, but we champion Ernie just as much as Eric and I spent a lot of time hanging out with the dummy.
“My wife came home one night to find us tucked up in bed together.“
Bob has also become close to the Morecambe family and say he feels ‘honoured’ to get invited to tea in Harpenden where Eric’s widow Joan still lives.
Eric’s son Gary is also an associate producer on the show, which won an Olivier in 2010 and is coming back out on tour, with bigger and better sets and costumes and a specially-recorded score to mark 30 years since Eric died on May 28, 1984, aged just 58.
“The family say Eric would be embarrassed that someone has done a show about his life,“ says Bob.
“He was so modest, but just wanted to walk into a room and light it up and that was to his detriment sometimes.
“On that last night he wasn’t at all well, but saw an audience and thought ’come on then’.“
Bob says the show brings tears not just to audience’s eyes, but also his own: “I miss him and feel strangely like I knew him, having got very much into the character.
“I feel like a little part of him will always live in me.“
The 43-year-old has found success as a performer, starring as Bianca’s love interest in EastEnders and is currently filming the CBeebies show Dynopaws with Sherlock star Amanda Abbington. But he says he is in awe of Morecambe and Wise, who he grew up watching and whose Christmas Special in 1977 attracted 28 million viewers – half the UK population at the time.
“I feel it’s a duty to keep his legacy and genius alive,“ says Bob. “It’s been 30 years since he died but we still talk about him.“
He read dozens of books and hunted out rare footage to perfect “Eric’s certain style of talking“ and constantly slips into an uncanny impression, but I wonder if he uncovered any dark secrets about his idol?
“No. There’s no darkness in it. People often equate biopics with troubled people, but Eric wasn’t that. He was ’on’ all the time and that was detrimental to his health, but he was a good example to us about dusting yourself off and carrying on.“
Morecambe is at Harlow Playhouse, Playhouse Square, April 29. Details: 01279 431945, playhouseharlow.com