Sunday, 25 May 2014

Review: Formby, Newport Riverfront

Ewan Wardrop’s much-praised tribute show to entertainer George Formby played the final date of its current tour at Newport Riverfront on Friday evening.

From the very young to the most senior of audience members, the show raised smiles from the offset as actor/ dancer/ comedian Ewan Wardrop delivered a charismatic choreographed one-man show performance of Formby’s life and times.

Based on George Formby’s home truths appearance on the BBC’s Friday Show in late 1960, Ewan retold the entertainer’s life and times through song, dance and interpretations of George, his parents and his wife Beryl.

The result was a fast, furiously funny, and highly energetic with a hint of tragicomedy taking the audience back to Formby’s early days as an awkward young jockey before opting for a career in music hall.

The simplistic set with chair, table, lamp and phone were utilised to full capacity as cleverly structured spotlight cues and sound effects allowed Ewan to change character roles and scenes. These included controlling a horse in a stable with a mouth organ and learning to play his fast ukulele style while mirroring Beryl’s clog dance moves with his fingers, both of which Ewan performed simultaneously.

Other highlights, included Ewan’s impersonation of German spies observing Formby playing to UK troops during World War II and recreating a classic film scene, where Formby famously knocked the Fuhrer’s block off.

The show also looked closely at George and Beryl’s changing relationship, including Beryl’s controlling of her husbands career before her health deteriorated with  leukaemia.

Peppered with a soundtrack of Formby favourites including When I’m Cleaning Window’s, Mr Wu’s Chinese Laundry Blues and Leaning On A Lamp Post, Formby delighted all in attendance.

As an encore Ewan stepped out to allow Ben, a member of the audience to have a moment of glory by playing the ukulele, while Ewan himself performed one final favourite Auntie Maggie’s Remedy.

Formby has now ended its run, but I hope at least one performance of the talented Ewan Wardrop recreating the magic and comedy of George Formby for stage may at least have been immortalised for a future DVD release, as this show certainly deserves much wider acclaim.

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