Still remembered affectionately by many as a bumbling, feckless, fez wearing comedian, (who famously died on stage during the middle of his act on live television), Tommy Cooper was a rare breed of comedian, a true comic genius, whose influence on generations of comedians can still be seen today. A genuinely funny man both on and off stage, like most comedians of his era, Tommy Cooper’s career was blighted by problems with his health and private life.
Cooper is portrayed by the young actor, John Hewer, who has also devised the show, which is made up entirely of the best of Copper’s magic routines, interspersed with gags and some very funny shaggy dog stories. Hewer brilliantly captures the comics well known mannerisms and although he must be at least thirty years younger than Cooper was in his prime, does an exceptional job in making you believe that for an instant you are watching the real man himself.
The show must feature at least thirty individual magic tricks, which probably require more time to set up than its actual running time. Hewer expertly recreates Cooper’s hap hazard, misfiring magic, which of course was an excellent smoke screen to disguise what an accomplished magician he really was. Of the magic tricks that Hewer recreates the most spectacular are the disappearing jug of milk into a rolled up newspaper and the expertly performed and very funny multiplying beer bottle and glass routine. Hewer also has a lot of fun recreating Cooper’s giant playing card disappearing and reappearing numbers trick. A well as being a gifted performer, with spot on comic timing, Hewer also proves to be an excellent sleight of hand magician.
With his deadpan delivery, Cooper was the comedian’s ultimate comic and this show clearly demonstrates why, although his gags are as old as the hills, they are still profoundly funny, of the ones included in this show, the jokes that raised the biggest laughs were, “I sold my wife for a car, it was a good swap,” and “I asked a librarian if she kept books on pigmies and she said no, we keep them on shelves.” During this affectionate tribute, Hewer is joined on stage by Christopher Peters as Cooper’s accompanist and magic assistant. Peters is given a few minutes on his own to shine, (no doubt to give Hewer a much needed rest), and uses this time to his full advantage to sing Peter Skellern and Richard Stilgoe’s amusing ditty, Joyce the librarian. Nostalgia is firmly at the heart of this show, which concludes with a rousing rendition of the Morecambe and Wise’s classic, ‘Positive Thinking.’