HAVING worked as a musician with the late great Tommy Cooper in 1970s nightclubs, this revealing new play is forensically accurate.

Tommy Cooper was a gifted and hilarious magician and comedian in the music hall tradition. When we played with him on stage he would have audiences falling off their seats in helpless, hysterical laughter – and that was just as he walked on.

Yet Tommy had his secret demons; he never socialised with the band, always preferring to stay in his dressing room, drinking heavily.

This perceptive play by Tom Green concentrates on Cooper’s early career as he tries to crack America, featuring Morgan Deare as a joke book-selling hustler.

Ever-present is his creepy showbiz agent, beautifully played by Halcro Johnston, with whom Cooper had his infamous “hate/hate relationship”.

Also ever-present on the road is Cooper’s “personal assistant” (mistress), acutely played by Rebecca Thorn.

As the loveable yet flawed comic genius, red fez-wearing Damian Williams is very convincing, with Cooper’s trademark mannerisms, voice, gags and catchphrases – “Just like that!” and “I’m on a whisky diet; last week I lost three days.”

Tommy Cooper was educated at Fawley Junior and Hardley Secondary Schools on the Waterside, before starting work in Hythe and visiting Southampton many times – “Not a lot of people know that!”

On a 38-date UK tour, Being Tommy Cooper plays Southsea’s Kings Theatre on May 26. Do catch it if you loved this legend of magical comedy.