Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em
From the opening bars of the famous, piccolo based theme tune, to the final curtain, Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em is a brilliant step back to the time when comedy was built on keenly crafted word play and mad cap, real physical stunts. Everyone of a certain age will remember Michael Crawford as the bumbling Frank Spencer, trying his best to make his little piece of the world better and constantly failing. It’s been a long time since Frank and his beret were last glimpsed on our TV screens and, save for a brief sketch for Comic Relief, the Spencer family have been relegated to being the target for wannabee impressionists (many of whom still use ‘hmm Betty’ as their staple “Who do you do” response).
This show, brilliantly written and directed by Guy Unsworth, plays out like a Christmas Special from yesteryear and yet at the same time feels fresh as a daisy and as funny as Raymond Allen’s originals. Undoubtedly, this is down to the writing which is the same machine-gun style of never ending mix ups and missed meanings as beloved of the TV series. The set, whilst simple in initial viewing, is cleverly built to enable the stunts and pratfalls to happen with just as much shock effect as on the small screen – come the finale you are left wondering just how do they get this ready to go again in only a few hours.
Playing Frank Spencer is one of the UKs hardest working and genuinely funniest actors – Joe Pasquale. To many who have not seen Joe’s work he is a funny voice over man (“I’ve had an accident”) but Joe is a master of his craft and this show is the perfect vehicle to showcase all his talents. He avoids the temptation to fall into making this a Michael Crawford impression show and instead brings his own take on the hapless, lovable fool. His comic timing is nothing short of genius, using the audience’s reactions to temper his next line and knowing just how to give everyone on stage a quick breather simply with a look. This is the first time I’ve seen Joe live (can’t believe I’ve missed him for all these years) but he alone is reason to go and see this show again and again.
Playing opposite Joe as his doting yet long suffering wife Betty is Sarah Earnshaw.Sarah is as cute as she is loving, patient yet frustrated that despite (of perhaps because of) Frank’s attempts, things that seem simple never quite stay so.Sarah has a very impressive list of West End and tour theatre credits for one so young; Glinda in Wicked, Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, Jennifer in Nativity, Lady of the Lake in Spamalot to name but a few and whilst some might suggest that Betty is the straight role to Pasquale’s funnyman, this would do her a great disservice – Frank’s failings would not be half as cringe-worthy yet lovable if we didn’t believe that he was trying to make the world a better place for Betty – she is his raison d’etre and Sarah makes this add couple totally believable (tho I think she is probably giving Frank a good 35 years grace in age).
Initially I thought that the audience were big Frank Spencer fans, tempted by the chance to see a piece of TV comedy history replayed but talking to many at the interval, they were neither old enough to have seen SMDAE, nor did they know who Michael Crawford is (sorry Michael). Instead, they were drawn by both Joe Pasquale and the promise of brilliant comedy – perhaps more recent shows like The Play the Goes Wrong and Peter Pan Goes Wrong (both by Mischief Theatre) have opened people’s minds to the fact that theatre can provide great physical comedy without the need for clever editing or stunt people usually deployed for TV & Film. In fact, I think that seeing this show live, as with the others mentioned, is funnier and gives a greater appreciation of the craft that goes into making them.
Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em is playing at the Darlington Hippodrome until Saturday July 7th – not wanting to tempt fate, but it would be the perfect way to ease any post world cup blues should your team fail to make it through the next round – OR you could use it as a great evening to celebrate – either way, this is one show that guarantees to make you laugh out loud.