The Hawth, Crawley: Jus’ Like That with Clive Mantle and Carla Mendonca
It took a while to get the audience going in this warm-hearted tribute show to comedy legend Tommy Cooper, but by the end Clive Mantle had them where he wanted them – laughing uproariously.
Mantle is best known for his role as Simon Horton in The Vicar of Dibley, as well as regular appearance sin Casualty and Holby City.
When he first walked on, after the usual ‘business’ finding his way through the timeless red velvet curtain, my first reaction to his take on the bumbling conjuror was ‘that’s not him’. But by the end of the show, I was simply watching Tommy.
The mannerisms, the bumbling patter, those sudden elegant balletic gestures, and that infectious chuckle were all spot on and reminded us of a character who really didn’t need to do much to get a laugh – he simply was funny in himself.
Part one of the show was Tommy’s stage act, complete with highly skilled tricks made to look fluffed (Mantle was coached by magician Geoffrey Durham, aka The Great Soprendo), the usual stream of daft one-liners (including a few pinched rather knowingly from contemporary stand-up Tim Vine) and constant whispered conversations with backstage staff.
After the interval, Mantle and Carla Mendonca (playing his mistress and stage manager Mary) took us backstage to get an insight into the tears of a clown: the often lugubrious Cooper with a drink problem and a handful of pills to get him through. Post war he was doing 52 shows a week at The Windmill Theatre but still suffered with terrible stage fright.
His final appearance – a live TV show entitled Live From Her Majesty’s – was re-enacted (Cooper died from a heart attack in the middle of his act) and the final section had a bemused but Tommy arriving in heaven clad in a white tuxedo for a playful finale around a white piano with Carla Mendonca as his angelic accompanist.
It’s a great show (written by John Fisher and directed by Patrick Ryecart) that recaptures both the magic of one of Britain’s legendary funny men – and the price he had to pay to achieve it. See it.
Jus’ Like That is touring all over the UK until mid-June, including Worthing Pavilion on 21 May. Full details are at http://juslikethat.co.uk