It’s nearly fifty years since Frank Spencer graced our Television screens, his character immortalised in British comedy by Michael Crawford. However, it’s a modern day master of comedy that has brought new life to the role, Joe Pasquale. And what is most commendable is that he has taken the essence of ‘Crawford’s Frank’ but not tried to replicate his performance. This is Joe Pasquale as Frank Spencer, doing it his way.
The play is set back in the 1970’s with the memorable wallpapers, furniture and tank-tops of the time! What is remarkable about the sitcom is that much of the humour is still relevant to today. It never relied on ‘in jokes’ of the time, or an established comic to front the show, which means the slapstick, pratfalls and pandemonium that ensue throughout are relevant and still make you laugh out loud today.
For those too young to remember the character, Frank is a hapless unfortunate that tries to do everything right by everyone and typically ends up doing it all wrong. He is a caring natured person with no ounce of malice and it is this that endears an audience to him when things go wrong. His ever tolerant wife Betty (Sarah Earnshaw) stands by her man constantly.
The storyline is developed purely for the stage show, although takes its steer from aspects of the TV series.
The play focuses on Frank’s ongoing attempts to secure a job, and his desire to become a magician but this audition at the local civic hall didn’t go to plan. However, in a turn of fate, he receives a letter from the BBC wanting to screen test him for a new television talent show. In his enthusiasm and childlike excitement, he fails to stop, listen and comprehend his wife who has even more important news for him, “the house is to be filled with the patter of tiny feet”. So when his mother-in-law Mrs Fisher (Understudied by Jayne Ashley), Mr Worthington (Moray Treadwell) and Father o’Hara (David Shaw-Parker) come visiting and share their excitement and joy, there ensues a number of misinterpreted conversations and messages. The show continuous as pace with plot twists and turns, the introduction of Mr Luscombe and Desmond (Ben Watson) from the BBC bring yet more hapless moments. The final twist sees the play become more akin to a whodunit as Ben Watson takes on the role of Constable investigating a series of crimes, which helps extent the story beyond a typical comedy series episode. The supporting cast all step up and deliver in their roles, obviously there is a chemistry between them all on stage for the comedy to work so well.
Throughout the play, Joe Pasquale works tirelessly to maintain the fast paced humour, delivering blow after blow of belly laughter to the audience. If you closed your eyes, you would believe Sarah Earnshaw had been replaced by Michele Dotrice, her portrayal of Betty is pin point accurate and her affections towards Frank are what bring a degree of empathy to the scenes. That said, the play very much hit the mark more on comedy than the empathy side of the show, for all his errors and mannerisms, there will always be a comparison to the boyish charms of a youthful Crawford for those of the 70s.
In this current time, what are the Brits better at “than forgetting our own worries and laughing at someone else’s misfortunes!”.
Whilst it was clear the show naturally appeals to the older generations, this should not deter younger audiences. Much of the humour is still relevant and is seen in many more modern productions with the likes of Mr Bean and the ‘Goes wrong’ plays and TV series, along with shows like ‘You’ve Been Framed’. In fact, you could describe it to the younger generation as a hilarious collection of real life Memes!
Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em is at Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 14 March.