Betty and Frank

Sarah Earnshaw as Betty and Joe Pasquale as Frank Spencer. Pictures:  Scott Rylander

Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em

The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham


It’s almost 50 years since Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em hit our TV screens. It made Michael Crawford a household name and like classic comedies such as Porridge, Steptoe, Open All Hours and the like, it entered the national psyche – a comedy nugget from the golden age.

So, bringing it to the stage is like welcoming the return of an old friend, especially in the hands of a wonderful cast with Joe Pasquale just brilliant as Frank Spencer.

It would have been so easy to see Joe Pasquale playing Michael Crawford playing Frank, but Joe misses out the middle man, and makes Frank his own creation, the same bumbling, catastrophe prone, DIY disaster zone Frank, but this is Joe’s own Frank, and what a job he has made of it.

Despite Frank’s many faults he has to be sympathetic, be endearing to an audience and Joe manages that with aplomb, we end up rooting for him, even if we have no idea what we are rooting for.

His timing is superb. It is a skill you cannot teach to know just how long you can keep a silence going with nothing happening apart from a glance, gauging just when the laughter has reached its peak and when to break the silence. Joe is a master.

Sarah Earnshaw, who toured in John Godber’s April in Paris with Joe last year, is a perfect foil as tolerant, with a capital T, wife Betty, apparently normal and not on medication, she is loving, understanding, has saint-like patience, and is the straight one in many of the funny lines – and there are a lot of funny lines.

frank beret

Frank in his trademark trench coat and beret at th front door he made himself - without a letterbox, but he has added letterbox to the ever growing list . . .

Susie Blake marches in . . . and staggers out . . . as Betty’s mother Mrs Fisher, who discovers a penchant for Frank’s mother’s prune wine. Her slow inebriation is nicely controlled which is more than we can say for her hunt for a man, anything in trousers will do, as the prunes take over. A lovely performance.

James Peterson brings an air of normality, sort of, as parish priest Father O’Hara, who only manages to choke once and not get blown up too much, while Moray Treadwell is Mrs Fisher’s latest male acquisition as Mr Worthington – he also pops up as Mr Luscombe but that would be giving the game away.

Ben Watson is another in a dual role as a police constable and also Desmond, but I’m still not telling you why. The plot might be iffy but it is still confined to ticketholders.

Writer Guy Unsworth, who also directs, was given the original scripts to play with by the original writer Raymond Allen, and has created a stage play set around the episode where Betty is trying to tell Frank she is pregnant. There are some wonderful lines such as Frank declaring that as he was an only child he was the heir sole of the family (say it out loud), or his wonder and belief in the hidden skills of dentistry.

There is innuendo a plenty, but Frank is so innocent and full of malapropisms it is a throwback to the days of Donald McGill, at other times confusion reigns as Frank takes things literally or misses the point by several country miles generating endless moments of humour.


Susie Blake as Mrs Fisher, tired and emotional as a newt and also concussed after an incident with a door and Frank with Betty and Mr Worthington looking on

The laughs and chuckles from the audience are constant, belly laughs regular with a couple of ladies suffering uncontrollable laughter most of the evening.

The TV series was packed with stunts and visual and physical humour, which are not as easy to create on stage but there are enough for plenty of laughs, co-ordinated by Kev McCurdy 

There is Frank’s DIY electrics, which set about proving switches are overrated when thumps on walls and stamps on floors work just as well, sometimes, while his home improvements have scant regard to structural integrity as we will see later, then there is Mrs Fishers’ fall from grace, or at least the top of the stairs, and Frank’s removal of all the banister spindles, which brought to mind that favourite ice cream topping, crushed nuts.

It is all helped by Simon Higlett’s set design which has to cope with explosions, partial demolition and furniture falling apart aided by Matt Haskins lighting and Ian Horrocks-Taylor’s sound to create the electrical and explosive mayhem.

The result is a wonderful, madcap piece of particularly daft theatre, doing exactly what it promised and which this excellent cast carry off quite beautifully, and while we are talking about the cast . . .

This was the hottest day since records began, the auditorium was warm, clammy, many in the audience were in shorts and T-shirts, fanning themselves, but even with the cooler running modern LED lights, a stage is still by far the hottest place in any theatre during a performance. Despite the heat, and no doubt some discomfort, the cast threw themselves into the performance wholeheartedly and gave it their all – so thank you, it was much appreciated.

Some mothers will be having ‘em to 23-07-22.

Roger Clarke


Index page Alex Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre