The setting is a 1982 television chat show. Through the interview and a series of flashbacks, the lives of diminutive, club-footed ladies’ man and virtuoso musician, Dagenham-born Dudley Moore and taller, public school educated, chain-smoking, hard-drinking ad libber and comic genius, Peter Cook, are explored - their rise to stardom, their arguments and their inevitable split.
Simon Lowe gives a stunning performance as Moore - the twitches, the nervous giggle, the fluffed lines and hasty recovery, the timbre, the falsetto. It appears that he can even play piano like Moore. Gareth Tunley gives less of an impersonation of Cook, but expertly captures his supercilious sneer. He makes his character very easy to dislike, but he has all the best one-liners - “Dear David (Frost), the bubonic plagiarist” or, “commiserating” with Moore after Henry Fonda has beaten him to the Oscar: “It’s not the taking part, it’s the winning that counts.”
Alexander Kirk plays chat show host Tony Ferguson, all lame jokes and awkwardness. The other actors play a variety of parts.
Set design by Janet Bird is wonderfully economical. Assisted by Tim Mascall’s lighting and Tom Lishman’s sound, the time and space transformations are very effective.
Under Owen Lewis’ fast-paced direction, the inevitability of the split is very movingly dramatised. The show captures the highs and lows of the partnership, and for every laugh, of which there are many, there is a pause for thought.
And what’s better than a play that makes you laugh and think?