Edinburgh Fringe 2014
An hour in the company of comedy legend, Tommy Cooper, this version givesus the main elements of his life story with plenty of opportunity to enjoy his signature gags and routines.Daniel Taylor plays Tommy Cooper.
This is a very well observed portrayal of comedy legend, Tommy Cooper, a much loved performer whose back stage life was more troubled.
Daniel Taylor. playing Cooper, looks the part. More than that. Taylor has nailed Tommy Cooper. Not easy to do but this is no mere impersonation. Here were have some of those famous gags and routines, but they are interspersed with a fairly thin narrative of the main headings of Cooper’s life story. Yes, Tommy was loved by so many; he was also an alcoholic, slept around, and was a man who became uhinged as he grew older. And yet, as we are reminded, people laughed in queues outside theatres where he was playing, just thinking about him and the show to come.
A cast of three evoke the war and post-war times, and then lead us through the biographical milestones and a few darker moments in Cooper’s life. This is story-theatre, done simply by three able performers. Warwick Evans, playing more than one character with ease, and Sharon Byatt as the wife Gwen who have unwavering support, add texture and depth to the narrative.
Many classic lines and payoffs are there in what is an endearing and fairly gentle biopic. We learn of the worries of his wife, the frustrations of his agent, we even meet her Majesty the Queen at that signature Royal Command Performance. There are songs in this show but it isn’t quite a musical. The wife’s song doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the narrative though all the songs are delivered very well.
Overall,the Cooper routines are great, there was much laughter in the small audience and I noticed one or two people discovering Cooper anf his timeless comedy anew. That is a testament to Taylor’s performance. He gave some people watching this the real Tommy Cooper. Taylor brought him back to life. I’m sure he’ll be doing that time and again on tour. For those who love and remember Cooper when he was alive, Taylor brings us Tommy too.
The show isn’t long enough to really deep dive into his life story; even so, the balance of the show is weighted heavily towards the onstage routines, at the expense of that biography. It feels a bit skewed, a bit unbalanced. That said, the routines are executed with all the fabulous clownish clumsiness from Cooper himself, the moves,the gestures, the one-liners. It’s all there. And it’s all been recreated lovingly and accurately.
The real virtue of this piece is the central performance of Taylor. The supporting cast more than earn their keep. We are left smiling, charmed by Cooper but a bit curious to know even more about the man underneath that red fez.Highly recommended.