Goodbye: The (After) Life of Cook & Moore | Theatre review by Steve Bennett at the Museum Of Comedy

Goodbye: The (After) Life of Cook & Moore

Note: This review is from 2015

Theatre review by Steve Bennett at the Museum Of Comedy

Peter Cook and Dudley Moore are in purgatory. Well, it’s a play about dead comedians, they have to be, it’s in the playwrights’ rules.

Here, they are told, they must resolve their earthly differences before they can be properly processed and the eternal destinations of their souls determined. The cause of their rift has been well-documented: Peter was resentful of Dud swanning off to Hollywood, largely out of jealously (though he would profess to hating the artifice of LaLaLand). Moore, for his part, felt he had to go, under-appreciated by his comedy partner and fed up of having to cover for his alcohol-induced unprofessionalism and lack of ambition.

There is not a huge amount of further delving in Goodbye, with the antagonistic protagonists portrayed as their public alter-egos, either the flat-capped Pete and Dud of their Dagenham Dialogues or the foul-mouthed Derek and Clive – a creation Moore is shown deeply regretting unleashing on the public. They constantly snipe, Cook accusing Moore of being a randy midget; Moore hating Cook’s wasted talent.

Moore pops his clogs on the same day as the Queen Mum, a slight shuffling of history, and finds himself in limbo, with Cook waiting for him, pouring a drink of course. It’s a nightmarish place, in which disjointed, surreal incidents muddy the situation. Other dead comic icons drift in and out, an autocratic Programmer booms unclear instructions from a giant screen and there are in-jokes about the likes of Watney’s Red Barrel… All very avant-garde – and dare I say unnecessary?

The pointed banter between the pair is in the style of their original sketches - much talk of ‘busty substances’, for example – with a few puns and double entendres thrown in. Although Jonathan Hansler and Clive Greenwood’s script cannot hope match the genius of its source material, it’s a loose approximation. The same could be said of the loose impersonations of the duo.

Hansler himself plays Cook – although he seems to channel John Cleese a fair bit too – and Kev Orkian, fresh from appearing in David Baddiel’s Infidel musical, is a perfect physical fit for Moore, with the musical talent to boot, although that’s only glimpsed here. Greenwood makes a series of scene-stealing cameos as ‘everybody else’, from Peter Sellers to Tony Hancock to Frankie Howard (with a rather clunky subplot). He’s not a top impressionist, but his Rigsby is excellent, providing a brilliantly funny diversion.

Cook is shown as fleetingly cruel, but not quite as callous as he quite could be in reality. And to vary the snippy tone, the poignancy of the illness that affected Moore in his later years is gradually played up, the progressive supranuclear palsy which robbed him of the chance to play his beloved piano. But you’re never too far from a nasally-delivered c-bomb to break the maudlin tone.

Overall, though, it’s a bit of a mish-mash – odd since it’s been around since the 2007 Edinburgh Fringe. It’s a replay of a personality split fans will know well, not only offering little extra insight, but also using theatrical tricks and its fantastical setting as distraction from the fact. Yet it’s affectionate, well-intentioned and sometimes amusing, and anything that keeps the spirit of Pete and Dud alive has to have merit.

Review date: 5 Feb 2015
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Museum Of Comedy

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