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Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em (Richmond Theatre).

March 7, 2018

(Seen at the evening performance on 6th March 2018).

The curtain rose to a happily nostalgic sigh from the audience, as the familiar “Morse code” theme tune filled the theatre. On a 1970s orange and beige (Simon Higlett) set, there sat Betty (Sarah Earnshaw) and Father O’Hara (David Shaw-Parker) discussing how to tell Frank (Joe Pasquale) that he was about to become a dad.

From there, writer and director Guy Unsworth has us time-travelling to simpler times, when the bank manager and BBC (Moray Treadwell) were to be respected deeply, and mother-in-law Barbara Fisher (Susie Blake) was to be feared.

The story concerns Frank’s latest tilt at gainful employment as a professional magician. The first half is his attempt to impress the bank manager enough for a loan, even as Betty tries to deliver her news. The second his attempt to be filmed for television, and bring the story to a neat conclusion.

Unsworth’s dialogue is stuffed with classic lines, fans of the TV show can tick them off as mentioned (pre-Columbo, though, it’s the cat Cleopatra who widdles on Frank’s plans – literally), and things are still taken out in the morning.

Better still, Stunt Co-ordinator Kev McCurdy and the set designer do a very impressive job for a touring show of giving us plenty of trademark physical comedy, including a couple of impressive set pieces, one painfully articulated. I’d rather guess that one set-piece failed to make the director’s final cut, though, as from where I was sitting I could see a toilet suspended at first floor level that was never revealed to the audience. Oh well, what they did do worked just fine anyway.

For the monkey fans, sit on the left side of the auditorium rather than the far right as you look at the stage, as the view is slightly better in a narrow auditorium.

Of the performances, we accept very quickly Pasquale, Earnshaw and the gang. Pasquale may have a heftier build than young Crawford, but he has the same shining innocence and certainly a little more warmth and tenderness. Unsworth has ratched up his intelligence a notch (Frank makes a pun or two) and Pasquale thinks and speaks noticeably more quickly than the original, tackling some impressive word-play too.

Earnshaw is simply sweet, making the most of the slightly less stage time allotted than might be imagined. Her final scene in particular is genuine and moving, another happy sigh over the end theme tune showing just how well the pair hit the emotional mark between themselves and the viewers at home, er, theatre.

As Betty’s mother, Susie Blake has a wonderfully degenerate second act. Without asking stage management, I’ll take it that the late Spencer Prune Wine was fake and that Blake worked off skill rather than instinct, but it’s a close call.

In the duel role of dinner partner to her, and later harassed BBC presenter, Moray Treadwell gets two rather good roles, and makes the most of them. His first act chairs sequence, and second act attempts to simply get Frank to walk through a door are beautifully timed reactive acting.

David Shaw-Parker manages to remain both godly and terminally confused throughout. Resisting parody, he’s a good man doing his good works in an ever murkier situation.

Last, but by no means least, Chris Kiely as Desmond James and the Constable is given the important job of wrapping up the story with some fairly “Scooby-Doo” writing. That he manages it and overcomes one of the two non-true-to-the-original style moments in the show (the other is a highly unnecessary twice repeated swear-word that can and should be deleted right now, if anyone from the show is reading this) is to his credit, and his timing, too, is immaculate.

To sum up, this is the right cast with the right script in the right environment. It’s as relatively unsophisticated as the original times it is set in. It’s an enormously, truly, enormously fun time-capsule. A little piece of the Great British Past that anyone who ever loved it will want to see again and again. It’s on national tour, and that’s exactly as it should be. The West End would see it sink without trace – “The Play That Goes Wrong” has the market cornered and feels like an iMac compared to this typewriter. Yet a typewriter will work without electricity, and requires nothing more than good mechanics and a skilled operator to produce highly pleasing results. This hard-working and happy re-union with old friends is exactly the same.


4 stars.


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