A nostalgic celebration and return of an iconic character, with a new face…It works
There have been many stage versions of television sitcoms over the years, but many were amateur productions that were simply that; a recreation on a stage of something on a screen. The idea of taking a visual media and putting it in front of an audience is nothing new, but it takes a certain amount of craft, dedication, and skill to make it work. The current Joe Pasquale lead production of Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em is a rare case of a stage adaptation working because they know who their audience is.
I had the fortune of attending a performance of the touring production at The Hawth Theatre in Crawley; I was not disappointed. The show was an explosive box of nostalgia that kept delivering. Based on the 70s sitcom by Raymond Allen, this new production was written and directed by Guy Unsworth; who has done a marvelous job of adapting the show. Many of the situations and gags feel familiar, but this is not a show of Frank’s greatest hits, its a two-act comedy with a story, likable characters and a lot of laughter. The show is a lovely mixture of tongue-twisting wordplay, innuendo and lots of physical comedy; honed to perfection by Joe Pasquale.
I was initially skeptical of the idea of Pasquale playing Frank Spencer, mainly because the role is so associated with Michael Crawford. There have been so many impersonations of the character over the years, that I feared the new interpretation would be just that; I need not have worried. Pasquale takes the role and makes it his own. Rather than straight out copying, he takes the characteristics of the character and bends them slightly to match his strengths as a performer. The supporting cast was excellent, but that was to be expected. Theatre and TV veteran Susie Blake owned the part of Frank’s mother in law, possibly taking inspiration from her role on Mrs. Brown’s Boys. Experienced performer Sarah Earnshaw also put in a good turn as Frank’s wife Betty, again not straying into imitation but making it her own. The rest of the familiar cast also put in stellar performances, really embodying the spirit of the piece.
Kudos must also go to the backstage staff, who did a fantastic job on the lighting, stage design, and sound. To have one set where Frank is to come alive, and make it work, takes skill.
In conclusion, it’s well worth going to see while you can. I would imagine that this will spawn lots of other theatre productions of classic sitcoms, but few will match the endearing charm of this one. They managed to mix all of the things that made the show great and make it work on the stage. The audience loved it, and it was not all nostalgia. A lot of the ideas seemed to call upon a classic era in comedy, and it made it special. Well done.
You can catch Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em at The Hawth between the 23rd and the 26th.