The opening soundtrack of the familiar whistled tune of Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em before the curtain rises brings a host of smiles to the mostly older demographic in the audience who remember the television comedy. Some of the smiles break out into happy declarations that sound something like “oh yes”. Clearly the 1970s television show with 30 year old Michael Crawford playing the lovable, accident prone fool Frank Spencer is locked into a collective memory of situation comedy favourites.
The plush red curtain rises, just like in an old-time stage farce and within a few seconds Frank announces he’s home in the guise of popular actor/entertainer Joe Pasquale – he of the light voice and highly polished comedy persona. It is really starting to hark back to the 1970s big time as ‘the star’ enters the stage and gets a big round of applause. Next thing we’ll all be discussing why there are so many US TV cop shows on the telly and the issues of the three day week! Let us pray that the Nottingham Theatre Royal electricity doesn’t suddenly go off and cause a black out!
The genius set (Simon Higlett set and costumes) is a garish nightmare of highly-patterned wall paper and a big long staircase you just know someone is gonna fall down at some point in the show. Whether they do or not is one of the great comedy surprises in the show. The crazy domestic council house set is practically a star of its own construction.
Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em is a fast paced and relatively short show right from the start with Pasquale putting his own personal stamp on the character of Frank Spencer. Gone is the “Ooh Betty” phrase which Crawford’s character, unbelievably, only said once during the whole TV series and three Christmas specials. In is a hint at Frank’s recognisable phrasing and some fast paced and very funny dialogue and spoonerisms handled beautifully by comedy master Joe Pasquale. If one had never seen the original TV series to compare Franks then Pasquale’s version is just as likeable and put across as a hapless DIY guy to whom nothing ever goes right in his life. We still care about him and that is important.
The one thing that does go right is the loving support of his wife Betty played with great wit and charm in the Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em stage show by the talented Sarah Earnshaw. Betty has an announcement to make – she is pregnant. But how does she tell Frank and what will his reaction be? It seems that everyone knows but him. Betty’s mother Mrs Fisher ( normally Susie Blake – understudied tonight by Jayne Ashley) knows, her bank manager boyfriend David Worthington (Moray Treadwell) is in the loop and the local vicar, of which there is always one in every farce, Father O’Hara (David Shaw-Parker) knows too. We expect Frank’s domesticated chicken knows too but is saying cluck all.
The trouble is Frank is very excited about an unexpected letter from the BBC that tells him that a representative is coming to their home this very evening to talk to Frank about appearing on telly with his inept magic act. Maybe at last something is going right for Pasquale’s frantic Frank.
Panic and misunderstandings ensue right left and centre and we spend the evening comfortably laughing our socks and garters off at some fine comedy acting from the entire hard working cast. We witness some truly farcical slapstick elements that gives us an explosive end to the first act and continues the daftness right through as Frank attempts to deal with the BBC arriving. Here we meet Moray Treadwell again as Terry Luscombe and Ben Watson as Desmond James and Constable. This is a police officer btw and not the famous painter. That would be odd.
For some good old-fashioned family show belly laughs this is definitely one to see.
Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em runs at Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 14th March 2020.
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Do you travel by public transport and come across annoying fellow travellers? Then check out Phil Lowe’s hilarious new book! below. Recommended age 16+