Across the eons of time the bleep-bleep-bleep morse code theme tune familiar to millions of viewers from those old three channel TV days comes wafting into the very hot and sticky auditorium of the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham taking every single audience member back to their childhood. “Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em” was an iconic show set in the heart of middle-England sit-com land which not only gave television a number of breathtaking stunts, but a number of producers a number of headaches and any number of impressionists a regular income impersonating its star. No impressionist of the 70’s was worth their show biz salt without donning a beret and saying in a slightly camp way, “Oh, Betty!” Anyone could do and everyone did. It was a show which seared itself into our s and the theme tune alone evokes images of roller-skating rinks, angles rescued by helicopters and collapsing chicken sheds. Hard to believe the part was first offered to both Norman Wisdom and Ronnie Baker before finding its true heir in the shape of Michael Crawford.
So why exhume a piece so synonymous with its period without its star? Because of Joe Pasquale, that’s why, who inherits the beret and raincoat as if born for the role. There are, of course, wisps and traces of Crawford in the grimaces and long pauses and Pasquale’s face betrays a brighter intelligence behind the eyes which Crawford’s innocent stare always managed to disguise. But once he sets aside the beret in an early symbolic gesture and grabs the performance, the show and the part with both hands even on this ludicrously moist and uncomfortable night (a special call out to the lady behind me with the electric fan from which I caught occasional chilly wafts) he gives an outstanding performance. His timing and placing of gags is consummate.
Replacing Michelle Dotrice, Sarah Earnshaw gives excellent support as Betty (of “Oh, Betty” fame) and bravely held her own against Pasquale’s antics and the hooting and whooping of two loud audience members both of whom seem to be having the best time of all. A very solid performance. Susie Blake was under used in the first act but when she takes to the bottle in the second (the character, not the actress) she really comes into her own and scores a couple of fine comedic bullseyes. Moray Treadwell, James Paterson and Ben Watson offer more than adequate support in their varying roles.
Writer/director Guy Unsworth’s adaptation/rewrite offers no concessions to the 21st century and merely reconstructs the time, the place and the people which, without Joe Pasquale Frank Spencer, was a very solid farce, with him it became sometime delightful, endearing and highly entertaining.
Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em continues until the 23rd July before continuing on it’s UK tour. https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/some-mothers-do-ave-em/the-alexandra-theatre-birmingham/
Reviewer: Peter Kinnock
Reviewed: 19th July 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★