How best to grab an audience’s attention during a one-man show about an iconic comedian and magician who died in 1984?

John Hewer’s producer gave him what John describes as a wonderful piece of advice.

The first 30 seconds, he said, were when people made up their minds, so that was how long John had to get them on side.

“I had to go over the top, he said. Do it on a grand scale, hair bristling, and hard-hitting Tommy right from the start, and once they had got it I could moderate it.”

A Swindon audience will have the chance to experience the resulting acclaimed show for themselves when Just Like That: The Tommy Cooper Story comes to the Arts Centre in Devizes Road on Sunday, April 28 at 7.30pm.

It is almost exactly 35 years since his death, yet Tommy Cooper remains instantly recognisable to millions.

Just Like That has the support of the comic’s estate; Tommy’s daughter, Vicky, told the actor that she loved the script and that her dad would have been proud.

John, co-founder with sister Rachael of Lincolnshire theatre company Hambledon Productions, was introduced him to Tommy’s unique brand of comedy by his own father while still a child.

“As a child you don’t always see his comedy. He is a huge man, unkempt and his magic tricks keep going wrong.

“I can see it when families come to the show - the young ones sit with arms crossed and then five minutes later they let their guard down and get on board, loving the silliness and child-like comedy that he always kept clean.”

Initially the show was only meant for a limited tour in the north of England, marking 30 years since Tommy died of a heart attack during a televised variety show from Her Majesty’s Theatre in London.

“I did it out of respect, but the right people came along and the Tommy Cooper estate and Vicky wanted me to carry on,’’ said John.

Tommy’s act was famously so anarchic and unpredictable that when he collapsed many people in the live theatre audience and at home thought it was yet another gag.

Just Like That: The Tommy Cooper Story captures the star’s live show while at the height of his powers.

It includes the story of how he came to adopt his trademark fez and the creation of his bumbling persona, as well as giving an insight into the nature of a private man who, after his shows, would sit in the bar until 4am and then go home to his digs and cook a steak.

Help with the set and props for Just Like That came from John’s father.

“My dad’s a carpenter so he remodelled some of them for me and I have some of Tommy’s own props, two of them are recognisable from the television.

“I knew a guy from the Magic Circle who I met in panto and he put me in touch with the magician’s props. Tommy was actually an accomplished magician. He was clumsy and bumbling but a good props magician.’’

John had to learn some of Tommy’s tricks for the show, although he has always been interested in magic.

The theatre company has discovered a niche in what John describes as classic comedy re-imaginings, tackling the legacies of other greats such as Tony Hancock, Steptoe and Son at Christmas and Spike Milligan. The latter, as with Just Like That, secured the approval of its subject’s daughter.

A future production will be devoted to Frankie Howerd.

Tickets for the Arts Centre performance start at £17 and can be obtained by calling 01793 524481 or visiting - Flicky Harrison