Tommy Cooper was the golden boy of entertainment in the 1950s. A comedian and magician, his iconic act left thousands rolling in the aisles.
Known as a lovable buffoon in his trademark fez, Cooper captured the hearts and funny bones of a nation.
Tom Green, writer of Being Tommy Cooper, explores (and admittedly fictionalises) the man behind the stage persona in a production that, despite the laughs, is ultimately tragic.
Damian Williams plays Cooper with precision, capturing the essence of the man himself. He is magnetic.
The three supporting actors (Cooper’s agent, mistress and a failed Bostonian comedian) perform extremely well but act only as peripheral satellites constantly eclipsed by both the luminosity and destructive force of Cooper’s supernova as he inexorably hurtles towards destruction.
For all the impressive performances in this production, it unfortunately hits its narrative peak too soon and with too much force at the close of the first act. The second act is given nowhere to go as all four characters remain to endlessly lament Cooper’s implosion.
This purgatory is mirrored by the geographical setting of 1950’s Las Vegas – a desert landscape where even the most hopeful of men will inevitably lose. As such, the resolution of the production remains unsatisfying.
Being Tommy Cooper certainly is not the festival of laughter or the celebration of Cooper’s life most people may be expecting, but it is a fascinating insight into how one man can simultaneously be a national hero and his own worst enemy.
- Stephanie Faye Bartlett