FOR nine years Ian Ashpitel was in the Royal Navy, spending some time on submarines and enjoying the comradery, but then he decided to change his career completely.

Heading to drama school where he met Jonty Stephens, Ian was a mature student and Jonty ‘immature’ (as they like to say) and the pair soon went separate ways to follow the paths of their own acting careers.

Ian explained: “I have been all around the country now and I keep finding old friends of mine who I met in the navy. I loved my job but the navy and acting are completely different lives. If I hadn’t got into drama school, I probably would have gone back into the navy – I loved the comradery of it.”

The pair both love golf and soon did a show for their club in Richmond. That night Jonty was asked to do a five-minute Eric sketch and asked Ian to join him on stage as Ernie.

Ian added: “After that people kept saying that we must do something, so we wrote a play called Eric & little Ern about the relationship between Morecambe and Wise.

“We did a lot of research and met a lot of people who knew them. We are also friends with the Morecambe and Wise family who are great supporters of us.

“All the research made me realise just how perfect Ernie was for Eric. They are two opposite people, but it worked well. Just like me and Jonty, we are very different, but we share a great bond.

“Being in a double act, there has got to be chemistry. It is like a marriage, there are lots of ups and downs. We do have disagreements but eventually Jonty just agrees I’m right and we carry on!”

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Eventually, their five-minute sketch turned into a tour, then a West End run. It was nominated for an Olivier award and now, five years on, they are back with a new show – Eric & Ern.

In 2016, the pair started working on cruise ships where they wrote shows and performed them. Soon, the guests kept saying that they wanted to see the shows in their hometowns and so Ian and Jonty decided to write material with elements of Eric and Ernie’s live performances, so the audience would see new material they hadn’t necessarily seen before.

“It is purely Jonty’s fault – he is a mad fan of Morecambe and Wise, I was just a normal fan. I saw them live when I was six, and I can remember that my mum was laughing and crying at the same time. Little did I know all these years later I would be playing Ernie” Ian explained.

“The huge response has been a continual surprise. We are selling out all over the place! People miss this kind of comedy, it doesn’t really exist anymore. But people are still finding it as funny as the original Morecambe and Wise shows, even young people who are coming along with their families.

“People also have an emotional connection to the show – it takes them back to when they used to watch Morecambe and Wise (when they had to stand up and change the channels on the TV). I am enjoying sharing the experience with people.”

Ian and Jonty are bringing Eric & Ern to Yeovil, where they have performed before, but they admitted they have grown a lot since then. They also have the addition of a guest singer this year.

Ian added: “Being on tour is tiring but as soon as you step up on stage and crack the first joke, you’re on for a hilarious journey and fun evening.”

Eric & Ern will be at The Octagon Theatre in Yeovil on February 29 at 7:30pm. Tickets cost £23.50.

To book or to find out more visit octagon-theatre.co.uk or call 01935 422884.

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