Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em review at Richmond Theatre – ‘Joe Pasquale makes the role his own’
That whistling theme tune. Frank Spencer. Squeaky voice. Pratfalls. Sometimes the ingredients are so familiar it’s possible to second-guess what a dish will taste like before it’s even been served.
But this adaptation of the 1970s sitcom, Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, so identifiable that Michael Crawford’s epitaph will rest on a beret and a Mac, rather than a phantom mask, achieves something remarkable. It stays true to the original while delivering a fresh farce that’s entirely of its own.
Joe Pasquale commendably avoids a tired Crawford-as-Spencer impression. The “Ooh, Bettys” are out. Instead, the likeable performer puts his own stamp on the character as a middle-aged car crash of a manchild who multitasks mayhem to his own gag-peppered tune (“When things go wrong,” he tries to assure his poor wife, “I’ll be there!”).
Likewise, writer and director Guy Unsworth nods to the ‘plots’ of Raymond Allen’s sitcom but mixes these up for the play’s own, well constructed, ends. Sarah Earnshaw’s engagingly winsome, though underused, Betty has news for Frank: she’s pregnant. But visits from her mum (Susie Blake), a priest and TV producers thwart her plans to tell him, with hilarious consequences. No, really.
For Unsworth’s sure-footed grasp of the mechanics of farce is superbly supported by Simon Higlett’s terrific set, a house of cards complete with face-spraying plumbing, on-off lamps and shifty shelving. Of course we know where these traps are headed, but the slapstick is so well executed it still surprises to belly-laughing effect.
Moreover, rather than merely supporting Pasquale, the cast works as a true ensemble. From Blake’s sozzled mother-in-law to Moray Treadwell’s avuncular yet – you know it – increasingly exasperated TV presenter, each of the performers’ pinpoint timing and easy interplay make this a winner. And there’s not a whoopsy in sight.
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