Sir Norman Wisdom

MICHAEL DRAKE Norwich Theatre Royal

MICHAEL DRAKE

> Norwich Theatre Royal

Norwich has been a centre for premieres for many musical and stage programmes, but last night saw the other end of the scale with the finale from an artist who, over half a century, has become practically a British institution and said at times to have rivalled even Charlie Chaplin.

As the audience from near and far watched adoringly Norman tripped over his feet for the last time in the UK and as his “hang-dog” expression broke into the famous laugh he reminisced under the gentle prompting of the evening's compere, Keith Simmons.

It was at times very emotional but with an underlying humour always, even when the ex-flyweight champion of the British Army in India told of his harsh early life. The song was cued and half a century after he wrote it, he can still sing Don't Laugh at Me very well indeed and in fact he is still songwriting.

Let's not forget the Friends. Compere Keith Simmons kept the flow going, reminding us of all those old television ads (and they were remembered by the audience of “a certain age”), Terry Seabrooke, nearly as daft as Tommy Cooper, slick with his magic and Squire Ronnie Hayward's deadpan humour raised many a laugh. My seat rocked and rolled to 1960s' singer Jess Conrad now much younger (he said) and although his patter was a bit overbearing it was nostalgic and only make believe.

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But the little man's last words on stage in answer to a question were “I'm a lucky little devil”.

Sir Norman Wisdom OBE, it's we who have been lucky.

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