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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 March 2006, 09:00 GMT
Pete and Dud return to the stage
By Vincent Dowd
BBC World Service arts reporter

The stars of Pete And Dud: Come Again
The show stars Goodman Hill (l) as Cook and Bishop as Moore

A new show is bringing comedy duo Peter Cook and Dudley Moore back to the London stage.

Pete And Dud: Come Again reconstructs one of the most fondly remembered of all comic partnerships and tries to explain why it fell apart amid such anger and mutual resentment.

Set during a chat-show, the new production sees Moore looking back on his years with Cook, from Beyond the Fringe in the 1960s to the last of Derek and Clive.

Kevin Bishop, who plays Moore in the forthcoming show, hopes the focus on 'Dud' will help rebalance the popular view of their complex partnership.

"People were fondest of Peter, so he's the one who gets the biographies. But their relationship was as close as a marriage, and you need to see it from Dudley's point of view as well," says Bishop.

Peter Cook and Dudley Moore
The comic pair starred in 1973 BBC show Behind The Fridge

"Peter was very comfortable in the belief that he was the talent, the brains and he was the beauty. I think Dudley becoming a Hollywood star was a blow Peter never really got over," he says.

Actor and co-star Tom Goodman Hill, who plays Cook, agrees.

"People forget Peter was only ever truly brilliant with Dudley. He informed his brilliance and Peter bounced off him.

"He was the only person Peter ever worked with - except possibly Chris Morris much later on - who was capable of improvising with him at his own level."

Fans of British comedy will remember the duo's famous sketches, with characters including the philosophical EL Wisty or the misguided restaurateur Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling.


Four years after his death, Moore lives on in the public mind as cloth-capped Dud from Dagenham or as the foul-mouthed Derek.

Director Owen Lewis knows there has to be a sense of these much-loved sketches, but they are not recreated in the show.

"One of the motivating factors for an audience coming to see this show is their comedy, so we include as much reference to it as possible. The seeds of the comedy are shown, but it is not a tribute show," says Lewis.

The actors go beyond simply mimicking their alter-egos, they portray Cook and Moore as they might have been in real life, beyond reach of the cameras and microphones.

The show, at London's Venue theatre, has been expanded from a production staged at last year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Aged just 25, actor Kevin Bishop says he was barely aware of the pair's extensive comedy history. "All I knew was Santa Claus: The Movie, Arthur, and Derek and Clive."

'Almost camp'

The actor used a 1990 episode of the Wogan chat-show, featuring a lively Moore, as a reference point for his voice. But Goodman-Hill found it difficult to identify Cook's natural voice.

Rhys Ifans and Aidan McArdle as Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in Not Only But Always
Rhys Ifans (l) and Aidan McArdle played the duo in C4's Not Only But Always

"He went from an incredibly aristocratic way of speaking in his student days - almost camp - to a post-punk John Lydon style of talking."

"So you never really knew if you were watching Peter Cook or not. In public I don't think he really ever had a voice of his own," he says.

Conscious that the Cook-Moore story has frequently been picked over since their deaths, director Lewis has strived to give the play its own voice too.

He says that, even now, what people pick up on is the underlying warmth between the two men.

"Sometimes Peter's wit threatens to leave him as the critical one, always slinging insults. We've tried to put the affection back in."

Pete and Dud opens at The Venue theatre, London on 7 March. Previews from 2 March.

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