Published: 00:01, 12 March 2018
| Updated: 08:27, 12 March 2018
Hopefully the company behind Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em have comprehensive insurance and a well-stocked first aid kit when the world premiere of Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em goes on national tour.
“Oh blimey, yes!” says Joe, who will play Frank, the character made famous in the 70s by Michael Crawford and that had a nation chorusing "Ooh, Betty!"
“We have a stunt coordinator and I’m doing it all – hanging by my ankles, chicken chasing and all sorts. But we’re not doing it as Michael’s version of Frank Spencer; that would be an insult to Michael. I’m putting my personality into it, which is how to make it believable. There’s a difference between child-like and childish and Frank isn’t childish; he believes in what he’s doing."
It may have been some years since the show was on the TV, but the appeal of the gags is still timeless.
“We did three workshops and at the last one we had an invited audience who were across an age range of between 18 and 70," said Joe.
"All the younger people didn’t know the show or have a frame of reference with Michael, but they laughed their socks off. Even the older people who remember the original, forgot Michael doing it in within five minutes – the script is so good.”
There are many stunts, playing such an accident-prone character, but Joe is up for the challenge, as a self-confessed adrenalin junkie.
He won ITV's I’m a Celebrity 14 years ago, and has appeared in TV documentaries that have included being trained by the SAS and imprisoned in Costa Rica.
"If it’s not dangerous or life threatening then I’m not interested any more," he said. "I read the book Feel the Fear and do it Anyway 15 years ago and it made me think. Now, if I’m not sure about doing something, I automatically say OK - let’s do it. You might as well live while you can.”
Joe's journey into the beret and coat of Frank Spencer came from his role as King Arthur in the Monty Python musical comedy Spamalot in the West End.
Stuck in an airless dressing room in the summer, a broken fan was about as much use as a chocolate fire guard. He set about taking it to pieces, cleaning it and putting it back together again - but when he turned the power back on, it exploded.
The show’s director Christopher Luscombe and staff director Guy Unsworth heard and felt it was a pure Frank Spencer moment. Guy then sought out Raymond Allen, writer of the original TV series, who was also a fan of Joe’s - and wanted him to play the part.
As for playing Frank, dare-devil Joe is mindful that he has already had his fair share of ‘industrial injuries,’ including getting stuck inside a bingo machine, breaking his toe while tap dancing and dislocating a shoulder in panto.
“It’s got danger written all over it for me,” he said, “I wouldn’t want to be my understudy!"
“But the world is a miserable place sometimes and we need to empty our bins, mentally. The only way to do that is release some laughter and you’ll laugh for two hours solidly at this, I promise.”
The stage show is based on an original story about Frank trying to get on a TV talent show.
“It’s still set in the 70s, so you get the mustard wallpaper, tank tops and all the trimmings," said Joe.
"It is so funny and you can take the whole family to see it. Apart from panto and maybe musicals there aren’t any theatre shows that people of all ages can enjoy together, but this is proper family comedy.”
The cast includes Susie Blake as Mrs Fisher, Frank’s disapproving mother-in- law, Moray Treadwell as Mr Luscombe, David Shaw-Parker as Father O’Hara and Chris Kiely as Desmond, and playing his long-suffering wife Betty is Spamalot co-star Sarah Earnshaw.
“Sarah’s role is so much more difficult. She has to be softer and so likable, but she’s brilliant.”
He confesses he’s a terrible on-stage ‘farter’ and that Sarah knows all about it, having been downwind during the Spamalot run. “She calls me the Unstoppable Moron,” he said.
He is also unstoppable work-wise. As well as the tour of Some Mothers, Joe continues to do stand-up and has just had a book of his short horror stories published.
“It’s a book for adults called Deadknobs and Doomsticks. I’m a bit of a horror buff and when I did an Open University course in geo-science and geology, as a by-product I did some writing courses.”
Sending his stories to an author friend for feedback, his chum promptly forwarded them on to his publisher who saw the potential and immediately told Joe to write some more.
Of the tour he adds: “My life is a sitcom, so, no acting required for this one but touring in Some Mothers will be a lot easier than my stand-up show. I usually do 40 one-nighters at different theatres. A week in one place will be like a holiday."
Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em is at Churchill Theatre in Bromley from Tuesday, March 13 to Saturday, March 17. For tickets from £22 call 020 3285 6000 or visit churchilltheatre.co.uk
The show is at the Orchard Theatre in Dartford from Tuesday, May 8 to Saturday, May 12. To book tickets visit orchardtheatre.co.uk or call 01322 220000.
It will be at the Assembly Hall Theatre in Tunbridge Wells from Tuesday, May 29 to Saturday, June 2. To book visit assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk or call 01892 530613.
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