Some Mothers Do Ave Em (Credit Scott Rylander)

Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em theatre review

Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em theatre review

Jenny Booth review this comedy caper at Richmond Theatre


Anyone who has recently cracked a rib should avoid Richmond Theatre for the rest of the week, as the 1970s sitcom Some Mothers Do ‘Ave Em has been rather brilliantly revived for the stage, and is leaving audiences in excruciating bouts of laughter. The original TV series could at times be almost too painful to watch, as the hapless Frank Spencer, with his rabbit-in-the-headlights stare, his anxious twitches and his gawky, flapping limbs, made irrational mental leaps and invented outrageous lies to excuse his pratfalls, leaving a splintered trail of chaos, rage and misunderstanding in his wake. It made you laugh, but mainly with agonising embarrassment on Frank’s behalf and mounting horror at what this dreadful innocent was about to do next. But with the older and calmer Joe Pasquale bringing his own inimitable style to the role created 49 years ago by a very young and skinny Michael Crawford, this Frank is slightly less intense, a fraction less awkward, a touch more emollient and as a result, easier to watch. And, in my opinion, funnier.

Pasquale wisely does not try to imitate all of Crawford’s tics and vocal mannerisms, instead relying on his own naturally high voice. He references the Crawford characterisation at crucial moments: for example, when he is accused of something he can’t wriggle out of, he launches into the trademark, Crawford-esque long silence in which his face pouts and his fingers pluck at his clothes. As the action begins Frank is down on his luck as usual, recently fired from his latest job and just back from a magician audition that has gone wrong when the diamond watch he made vanish refused to re-materialise. His long-suffering but optimistic wife Betty (played with nicely judged warmth and placidity by Sarah Earnshaw) has some very important news to impart, but is unable to get Frank’s attention as events begin to spin out of control even before a procession of dinner guests and visitors start to arrive. The misunderstandings and conversations at cross purposes accumulate, while Frank’s over-ambitious DIY threatens to come undone.

The production is a credit to the writer/director Guy Unsworth, who has crafted an entirely new play of two 50-minute acts that remains faithful to the slapstick spirit and the beautifully written characters of the Raymond Allen original. In particular, Unsworth has written dialogue that is crisp, tight and funny, and persuaded his small but talented ensemble – there are just six actors – to bat it back and forth with speed and comic timing. The plot requires Betty’s mother (Susie Blake) to become very drunk on homemade wine and make lascivious attempts to chat up a stranger, before being knocked out and falling down the stairs. I tried not to laugh at these parts, as making fun of the romantic inclinations of older women is definitely more 1970s than 2020s, but a few involuntary snorts got out. Designer Simon Higlett’s set is a major part of the action, and it deconstructs with aplomb. Recommended viewing.

Richmond Theatre, until 4 June

Photo credit: Scott Ryland

Read our interview with Joe Pasquale