Squeaky-voiced Kent comic Joe Pasquale is doing the impossible by recreating accident-prone Frank Spencer in Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em live on stage.
The show, based on Raymond Allen’s 1970s BBC TV sitcom which starred Sheppey entertainer Michael Crawford as the beret-wearing clown, opened at Dartford’s Orchard Theatre last night (Tuesday), not far from Pasquale’s Higham home.
Those old enough to remember Crawford’s original version, me included, could be forgiven for thinking this production was doomed from the start.
Surely, no one except Crawford could bring back one of British TV’s best-loved comic characters?
No one, that is, except Pasquale. This is, without doubt, the part he was born to play. Heavens, he has tried his hand at everything else from wrestling and stand-up comedy to panto, dangling from the London Palladium’s ceiling and winning I’m A Celebrity.
Even his normal voice fits Frank like a glove.
His version is just as dippy and dangerous. He might not drive his car into the sea off Sheerness, as Crawford did for his 1975 Christmas special, but Pasquale’s dodgy DIY skills can bring the house down (number 13, of course) thanks to Simon Higlett’s brilliantly designed set.
The stunts and one-liners keep coming at a frenetic pace from Pasquale’s very first line: “Hello Betty, I’m home.”
But this is not just a one-man show. The rest of the cast are superb.
Sarah Earnshaw (who was Pasquale’s co-star in Spamalot) plays Frank’s long-suffering wife Betty desperately trying to tell her husband they are to become parents while he is concentrating on a new career as a conjurer.
Susie Blake (Bev Unwin in Coronation Street) plays Frank’s deliciously disapproving mother-in-law Mrs Fisher; Moray Treadwell doubles as Mrs Fisher’s bank manager date and talent-spotting TV producer Terry Luscombe; David Shaw-Parker is spot-on as Father O’Hara and Chris Kiely excels as both TV cameraman Desmond James and a police constable.
The comic timing under Guy Unsworth’s tight direction is perfect and the lighting and sound are all excellent. This is a top-flight farce worthy of any Brian Rix production.
There are very few plays which Hoover up loose ends in the closing minutes like this one does. It’s worth the price of a ticket alone for the totally unexpected curtain call.
If this doesn’t become a new comedy gold classic I’ll eat my hat. It is beret good.
Quite Frank-ly, it’s a hit!
* The show is at Dartford's Orchard Theatre to Saturday, May 12. To book tickets visit orchardtheatre.co.uk or call 01322 220000. It will be at the Tunbridge Wells Assembly Hall from Tuesday, May 29 to Saturday, June 2. To book visit assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk or call 01892 530613.