23 January 2018
Some Mothers do ‘ave ’em or a Comedy of Errors!
‘This is going to be interesting’ I thought. ‘How on earth are they going to translate a much-loved show that featured broad, large-scale physical comedy (think the nativity play and the roller skating scene) to a stage?’ The answer is ‘Rather cleverly’. IMHO.
I have to confess two things here:
- I’m not a massive fan of slapstick – I can see it’s brilliance in the comic timing but it doesn’t float my boat all that much.
- Joe Pasaquale is an unknown quantity to me. I don’t watch reality TV and I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen him in action in any way.
So I’m happy to report that:
a. Not only did I smile several times – I even laughed out loud! 😉
b. More importantly, despite my personal antipathy to slapstick, I think Joe Pasquale did a brilliant job. He reminded us of Michael Crawford’s portrayal of the role without descending into parody. It would have been all too easy for this production to become an imitation of Michael Crawford’s rendition. And there were plenty of those at the time – remember Mike Yarwood? (Whatever happened to him?)
But I don’t think it did at all – a great testament to Mr Pasquale’s undoubted acting skills. He was quite a revelation to me I have to admit! The trenchcoat and the beret, and some of the mannerisms, all now a metonymy for Frank Spencer, were there but not overplayed.
And there was Susie Blake too. Legend! Along with an able supporting cast.
A selection of publicity photos – photo credit to Scott Rylander:
The staging deserves mention too. The action takes place in a single set, placed at a point quite far on (series 3 I think) in the timeline of the TV series, when Betty is trying to tell Frank she is pregnant. This conceit allows for a great deal of verbal and physical confusion – as you might expect. Some of the word play was pretty darn good I have to say with Malapropisms abounding. Good writing there.
So is this worth parting with your bucks for? Yes definitely. Even if, like me, you’re not generally a slapstick fan, give it a try. There’s much to commend and to be enjoyed in this lovely production of Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em.
Though not obviously a hero, Frank Spencer is one. Despite his many failures, he has courage, and persistence and morality. He loves his wife and his family. No doubt that’s why his wife Betty, and we, love him right back.
This show is a lovely homage to Micheal Crawford and to the Frank Spencer we know and love. Yet Joe Pasquale has made the character his own. In fact, thinking about it, I can’t imagine anyone else that could take this one on so successfully as he has.
Well done to all concerned.
Go to the Wyvern Theatre website to book your tickets: https://swindontheatres.co.uk/Online/tickets-some-mothers-do-ave-em-swindon-2018
On YouTube – the classic rollerskating sketch. Check out tank top!
Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em is a British sitcom created and written by Raymond Allen and starring Michael Crawford and Michele Dotrice. It was first broadcast in 1973 and ran for three series, ending in 1978, and returning briefly in 2016 for a one-off special. The series follows the accident-prone Frank Spencer and his tolerant wife, Betty, through Frank’s various attempts to hold down a job, which frequently end in disaster. The sitcom was filmed in and around the town of Bedford in Bedfordshire. It was noted for its stuntwork, performed by Crawford himself, as well as featuring various well-remembered and much lampooned catchphrases, that have become part of popular culture. In a 2004 poll to find Britain’s Best Sitcom, Some Mothers Do ‘Ave Em came 22nd.
The wimpish, smiling Frank, sporting his trademark beret and trench coat, is married to the apparently normal Betty (Michele Dotrice) and in later series they have a baby daughter, Jessica. The character was popular with television impressionists such as Mike Yarwood in the 1970s, particularly his main catchphrase, “Ooh Betty”, which is only ever said in one episode: series 2, episode 2.
“Ooh Betty …” is not Frank’s only catchphrase of the series. Others include a quavering “Oooh …”, usually uttered with his forefinger to his mouth as he stands amidst the chaos of some disaster he has just caused (and which he himself has invariably escaped unscathed). He also sometimes complains about being “ha-RASSed!”, or occasionally, “I’ve had a lot of ha-RASSments lately” (originally an American pronunciation). Other recurring catchphrases include references to “a bit of trouble”, which usually implies some sort of undisclosed digestive disorder, and to the cat having “done a whoopsie” (presumably a euphemism for having defecated in an inappropriate place, on one occasion in Spencer’s beret). If Frank is pleased (or confused) about something, he will often use the catchphrase “Mmmm — nice!” or “Ohhh — nice!”