The 1970s sitcom Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em is one of the most loved in British history, helped by the iconic portrayal of Frank Spencer by the legendary Michael Crawford. So a stage adaptation is always going to have big shoes to fill - both in recreating the legacy of the show and the main performer itself.
The stage adaptation of Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em first reared its head as a UK tour in 2018. It had just begun its second UK tour in 2020 when it had to close suddenly due to the pandemic. It has finally been able to resume the tour 2 years later and is currently working its way around the UK.
Joe Pasquale takes on the role of Frank Spencer, who is never far away from his next disaster. It would be very easy to do an impression of Michael Crawford, taking on all the manneurisms we have come to expect from the character. Instead, rather admirably, Joe makes the role his own. While staying true to the character, he puts his own spin on the character, adding his own comedic traits. This is part of why the show works so well - stopping it from descending into an impression or even a parody. As a well regarded comedian in his own right, Pasquale knows what makes something funny and is an expert in comic timing in what is a surprisingly accomplished performance.
His long suffering wife Betty is played by Sarah Earnshaw who perfectly bounces off against her hapless husband, regularly bringing proceedings down to Earth. Susie Blake is an absolute standout as Betty's mother, Mrs Fisher, getting some of the comic highlights of the second act as she gets progressively drunker. The cast are completed by Moray Treadwell, James Paterson and Ben Watson who give Pasquale the bait for him to run wild with.
Written and directed by Guy Unsworth (with original series writer Raymond Allen also credited), Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em works surprisingly well on stage, predominantly down to the fact it is not trying to be the TV show. Rather than lazily rehash classic moments from the series into a hastily cobbled together script (though there are, of course, some obligatory nods to the series), Guy has created a new standalone story that works well as a feature length adventure. While certain moments designed for a live audience run the risk of the evening descending into panto, including an ill-advised final dance routine, the show manages to be both a loving tribute to the original series while adding something new to the tried and tested formula.
A show like Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em can only work if it's funny, and this production really is completely hilarious. Utterly stupid at times but unashamedly so, this show really is the perfect remedy after the last 2 years and will potentially give you the biggest laugh you've had in a theatre in a long time. Pasquale's persona is the perfect vehicle for Unsworth's writing, and Frank Spencer as a character himself. Full of innuendo, double entendres and some hilariously mistaken words, this is a show that never leaves it too long before the next laugh.
Produced by Limelight Productions, accident-prone Frank needs a good set to play with (and ultimately destroy) and this is the jewel in the crown for Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em. Designed by Simon Higlett, the stage is laid out to represent the Spencers house and the various rooms in it - with plenty of attention paid to every last detail, ensuring a feast for the eyes as you try to spot the next thing to go wrong. While the action doesn't move from the house, the set itself does, revealing plenty of twists, turns and surprises as the action unfolds. Resembling something out of The Play That Goes Wrong, things fall apart, break and collapse altogether, including a brilliant climactic sequence that is impressively done and some surprisingly elaborate and large stunts that are expertly executed.
On paper, this is a show that shouldn't work but it really does, mainly down to the fantastic writing, amazing cast and set design. Keeping the tone right the whole way through, this is guaranteed to be a great night out and a fitting legacy to an already legendary series. Similar enough for fans of the show but different enough to stand on its own two feet, Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em is utterly hilarious and thankfully anything but a disaster.
Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em is touring the UK until August 2022. Full dates and tickets from www.somemothersdoaveem.com
Photos by Scott Rylander