John O’Brien saw “Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em” on behalf of the blog this week at Richmond Theatre:-
I was 13 years old when “Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em” was first broadcast on BBC 1 back in 1973. Written by Raymond Allen and starring Michael Crawford it ran for three series and three Christmas Specials. As a 13 year old I didn’t get the puns but I did get the doubles entendres and I especially enjoyed the stunts and physical comedy. And I laughed out loud at Frank Spencer in his Macintosh and beret and his two catch phrases “Ooh, Nice Betty” and “the cats done a whoopsy in my beret.”
So it was a fascinating experience to see a revival and adaptation last night at the Richmond Theatre written and directed by Guy Unsworth and starring Joe Pasquale as the hapless Frank Spencer. The verdict: A triumph. Its very very funny, you will laugh yourself silly. In places it is rib-shatteringly funny.
The basic set up is that Frank Spencer (Joe Pasquale) has the opposite of the Midas touch, everything he touches he destroys. He is not only unemployed but unemployable. His long suffering wife Betty (Sarah Earnshaw) never loses hope but rather endlessly encourages him in his hopeless schemes. His current project is his magic act. The action takes place in the Spencer family home as Betty explains to Father O’Hara that she is pregnant. Betty is not sure how to break the news to the unworldly Frank and seeks reassurance from Father O’Hara. Barbara Fisher (Susie Blake) Franks mother-in-law arrives with her new boyfriend David Worthington (Moray Treadwell), the local Bank Manager. To complete the farcical mix a BBC team is coming round to film an interview with Frank for “Stars of Tomorrow.”
These six character’s between them, create a farcical comedy of incredible ingenuity. Misunderstandings, double entendres; “my balls are too big and my wand is not big enough” says Frank of his magician’s equipment. Hilarious puns as Frank says things like “I had to perform the Heineken maneuverer,” stage business with doors, ironing boards, chairs, sofas, staircases, doorbells, telephone’s, kitchen hatches, photographs of Jesus, Englebert Humperdinck, and Bruce Forsyth all somehow gel into a seamless ongoing never ending farce, that I laughed myself to bits. The finale when Father O’Hara, Terry Luscombe and Frank are on the stairs singing Dawn and Tony Orlandos 1971 hit “Knock Three Times” will hit you for six, it is one of the funniest moments I have ever experienced in a theatre. Go if only to see this.
There is so much to enjoy. Joe Pasquale is superb. His voice is astonishing. His verbal articulation is miraculous. His timing is wonderful. And he makes you realise that from Frank’s perspective all seems reasonable. He pulls off what few actors can. He makes chaos and mayhem seem perfectly normal. It’s a remarkable performance. Catch this show at Richmond before it transfers to the West End and tickets become as hard to come by as those for Hamilton.
Joe Pasquale on being Frank Spencer, living dangerously and a naughty on-stage habit…
What can people expect from the stage show of Some Mothers Do ‘Av ‘Em?
Proper family comedy that is set in the 70s and is so funny that you will laugh solidly for two hours.
In the original TV series there were a lot of crazy stunts. How about the stage show?
I’m doing it all – hanging by my ankles, chicken chasing and all sorts. If it’s not dangerous or life threatening I’m not interested anymore.
Michael Crawford is inexorably linked with the character of Frank Spencer. Will you be imitating his performance?
No. That would be an insult to Michael. I will be projecting my own personality on to the role. When we did the final workshop we had an invited audience. All the younger people didn’t know the show or have a frame of reference with Michael, but they laughed their socks off. Even the older people who remember the original forgot Michael doing it in within five minutes – the script is so good.
Do you find touring life tiring?
Touring in Some Mothers will be a lot easier than my stand-up show, when a tour is usually forty one-nighters. A week in one place will be like a holiday.
Got any nicknames?
Sarah Earnshaw who plays Frank’s wife Betty calls me The Unstoppable Moron.
What’s your most unappealing habit?
I am terrible for farting onstage.
What’s your philosophy for life?
Feel the fear and do it anyway. You’re a long time dead; you might as well live while you can.