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Simon Cartwright brings Bob Monkhouse back to life at Edinburgh Festival – Pete Price

 

Today I say goodbye to the magical Miss Cilla Black. Goodbye – but never forgotten.

As you go through life, you lose loved ones and the older you get, the more you lose.

I spoke about Cilla last week in my column and how painful losing her was to me, just like losing Bob Monkhouse in 2003, who I think of every day.

Thank goodness I have so many happy memories with both these wonderful people.

I mention Bob for a reason. I interviewed Simon Cartwright the other day, who is appearing at the Edinburgh Festival, with a show called The Man Called Monkhouse.

His portrayal of my dear friend is surreal. The first time he spoke to me as Bob, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I found out something that I didn’t know.

Let me tell you.

One day, I was sitting in the new cinema at Cheshire Oaks looking forward to watching a film. The adverts came on. Suddenly before me was Bob Monkhouse, talking about prostate cancer, which killed him in 2003. I nearly passed out with shock.

Pete Price with Bob Monkhouse

Jackie Monkhouse, his widow, had, unbeknownst to me, given permission to have this bizarre macabre advert made to help publicise the charity.

I left the cinema distraught.

My point, I didn’t know it was Simon’s voice on the advert. That’s how good he is at being Bob. He believes when he becomes Bob, something spiritual happens to him and he feels as if he is channelling Mr Monkhouse.

Simon started off playing classical guitar, then went to the Guildhall, in London, where he became fascinated with drama. That’s when he realised he was brilliant at impressions. One of his fellow students was Alistair McGowan, and they did a little double act together, he told me.

Moving forward with his career, he said he auditioned for Bob in the third series of Bob Says Opportunity Knocks, in 1989.

I digress. Simon was saying Bob loved his impression. I asked him about the show which is wowing the Edinburgh audiences. He said there are no shocks in it, everything he deals with is in Bob’s books, so there are no dark reveals.

It runs for just under an hour. It is directed by Bob Golding, who did the play about Eric Morecambe.

“Every gesture, the walk and smile, the physicality, his mannerisms, the rhythm of his speech and the glint in his eyes – Simon is Bob Monkhouse.”

One story he told me is the measure of Mr Monkhouse. Simon went to record a piece for the three-part documentary, Million Joke Man, about Bob’s books, with Colin Edmunds, who was Bob’s scriptwriter and friend – he was left the books in the will.

To Simon’s astonishment, Colin produced a piece of paper from 1989, which simply said “opportunity knocks Simon Cartwright will do 10 out of 10”.

I found myself last weekend driving to the Festival at Edinburgh with a pal to watch this man perform his magic.

It was one of the strangest experiences I’ve had in years. I must start by saying Simon actually becomes Bob. Every gesture, the walk and smile, the physicality, his mannerisms, the rhythm of his speech and the glint in his eyes – he is Bob Monkhouse.

I was thrilled to get a name check.

The audience loved it and gave him a standing ovation. If I was to rate it, I would give it five stars.

Simon – thank you for bringing my friend back to life for an hour!




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