Being Tommy Cooper is easy for lifelong fan Jack Land Noble - he puts on the fez and does it... just like that.
The South Yorkshire actor and playwright is the director and star of the biographical real life story of the comedy legend at The Lamproom Theatre, in Barnsley.
And when he takes the spotlight for his first performance of Being Tommy Cooper - Tuesday, September 16, at 7.30pm - he will be making regional theatre history.
It’s believed to be the first local amateur production of the Tom Green play which celebrates Tommy Cooper’s amazing comedy performances but also looks at his personal demons. The show runs until Saturday, September 20.
VIDEO: Press the play button to watch Jack tell how he becomes Tommy Cooper.
“One of my earliest memories is sitting with my granddad, watching one of the compilation series celebrating the late, great colossus of British comedy, Tommy Cooper,” says Jack, aged 25, of Stairfoot.
“It wasn’t long before I got my first magic set and entertained school pals with cups, balls and disappearing handkerchiefs. Now I’m doing it on stage, as Tommy.
“He was a huge man. I’m much smaller. But as soon as I put the fez on, that’s when I become him. I’ve spend a lot of time watching old TV shows, researching the part.
“It’s often been said that Cooper only had to walk on stage and an audience would erupt with laughter. Those eyes, that lumbering gait… Cooper was, in my opinion, the 20th Century’s ultimate clown. But what is it like ‘Being’ Tommy Cooper?
“On some levels it is an impersonation, but as a drama you have to go deeper than that, you have to ask what his mind is like. The more you do that, the more you feel to be inside the head of somebody who just couldn’t help being funny, even in a serious situation. Equally, I hope the ‘offstage’ moments allow you to glean a new insight into Cooper the man who forever seemed to be ‘on’, even when drawing his final breath.
“One man doesn’t make a play of course. There’s a great stage team behind the show.”
It also stars Ian Robertson, Ross Dean and Fran Davies.
Jack added: ”There is a substantial amount of work needed in order to get the show up and running, and I have been blessed to have the support, skill and composure of a first-rate ensemble and technical team. Such is testament to the Lamproom Theatre Company, where memorable on-stage relationships accompany enduring off-stage friendships. This is the company’s strength and it has been an immense privilege to work alongside each performer in bringing this deftly-composed play to life; artistes who, despite working in an amateur remit, offer a wealth of intellect, humour and professionalism.”
The play itself begins in Las Vegas, 1954: in a small hotel room, where up-and-coming comic Tommy Cooper faces the prospect of his first big failure.
As personal and professional problems collide, he faces stark choices about the future.
Moving between the 1950s and 1970s, the play also tells the story of three other people in Tommy’s life.
There’s his hard-faced Scottish manager Miff Ferrie, with whom Tommy is locked in what he calls “a hate-hate relationship”. They rely on each other, but can hardly bear to be in the same room.
We also meet Billy Glason, a washed-up ex-vaudevillian who has set himself the almost impossible task of selling Cooper a huge collection of jokes.
Finally, there is Mary Kay – the woman with whom Tommy fell in love. There is only one woman she can’t compete with: Tommy’s wife, Dove.
Packed with classic lines and hilarious routines, Being Tommy Cooper is a powerful and provocative celebration of Britain’s favourite comedian and an examination of his darker side.
* Tickets are £12 adults, £11 concessions, in person at The Lamproom Theatre, Westgate, Barnsley, visit www.barnsleylamproom.com or call Barnsley 01226 200075.