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REVIEW: Some Mothers Do ’Ave ’Em

Some Mothers Do ’Ave ’Em

Some Mothers Do ’Ave ’Em
Written & directed by Guy Unsworth
Based on the TV series by Raymond Allen
The Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham
Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Rating: ★★★

I was a child when Raymond Allen’s classic sitcom first appeared on the BBC.  Being a safety-conscious, card-carrying member of the Tufty Club, I used to find Frank Spencer’s perilous escapades distressing rather than amusing.  In fact, the memory of the famous roller-skating sequence (available on YouTube) still gives me the heebie-jeebies.  So, when the house lights dimmed and Ronnie Hazlehurst’s piccolo music began to play, I felt a tingle of apprehension.  As the curtain rose, revealing a long flight of stairs that were begging to be fallen down, I thought, “That’s a terrible trip hazard.”  My anxiety escalated after Frank’s first entrance.  I thought, “Uh-oh.  He’s going to breach all sorts of health and safety regulations.”

I needn’t have worried.  With Joe Pasquale, we were in safe hands.  His portrayal of Frank Spencer is a resounding success and, in some respects, an improvement on Michael Crawford’s (which I had always thought was definitive).  Pasquale’s distinctive voice and simpatico persona are especially well suited to the role of hapless man-child.  His physical comedy is relaxed and deft, and his timing is (as one would expect of a stand-up comedian) superb.  Crawford played Frank as a grown-up with all the psychological sophistication of a pre-schooler.  Pasquale’s incarnation is more convincingly adult, although he still manages to convey the truth – known to all women – that grown men are really little boys inside.

Pasquale is ably supported by a strong cast.  Sarah Earnshaw, James Paterson and Ben Watson (Betty, Father O’Hara and Desmond respectively) are solid foils for the more extravagant comic characters.  Susie Blake excels as Frank’s flamboyant mother-in-law Mrs Fisher, especially when faultlessly delivering a tongue-twister while bladdered on homemade hooch.  Moray Treadwell plays the contrasting roles of Messrs Luscombe and Worthington with great verve, and executes the most hilarious ‘reveal’ since Feathers McGraw removed his rubber glove.

The 1970s – “The Decade That Taste Forgot” – are vividly evoked by Simon Higlett’s garish decor and Ian Horrocks-Taylor’s poptastic sound design.  Guy Unsworth’s script bristles with excellent gags and one-liners.  Frank is given many hilarious malapropisms, one particularly topical example being “My electricity bill is rising excrementally.”  Mine too, Frank.  However, the humour is sometimes obvious, the script occasionally dips into cliché, and a generous pinch of disbelief-suspension is required.  Still, despite my initial misgivings, I succumbed to the charms of this irresistible farce, and ended up hooting and cheering along with everyone else.  I even enjoyed the ‘corpse’ between Joe Pasquale and Moray Treadwell.  If it wasn’t scripted, keep it in, lads.

The audience had a great time, the show ended with a jubilant song and dance, and no-one sustained an injury.  Tufty badges for everyone!

Running time: 2 hours (including interval)
Some Mothers Do ’Ave ’Em runs at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, until Saturday 18 June 2022.

© 2022 Paul Sharples

Explore Gloucestershire
15 June 2022

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