Some Mothers Do Ave Em – Hilarious Fun

Frank Spencer was one of the the most beloved characters from 1970s television, a time often called the golden age of British comedy. A hapless innocent, almost a man child, Frank seemed to be followed by mayhem, disaster and destruction, and this recipe for disaster made Some Mothers Do Ave Em a bonafide smash hit that had TV audiences laughing out loud. Now it has been transformed into a stage production with Joe Pasquale taking on the Frank role made famous by Michael Crawford. It opened at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre last night, and once again has the audience laughing out loud.

Frank Spencer is a walking disaster area. Married to the long suffering Betty, Frank is having all sorts of problems in his life. His house is falling apart, he is struggling to get a job as a magician and now he has to cook dinner for his mother-in-law. But after he receives an exciting letter from the BBC, and some lovely family news from Betty, maybe life is actually on the up. Now, if only he can get through dinner with the mother-in-law, the bank manager and the vicar, maybe everything will be alright. Or maybe not.

Joe Pasquale is simply hilarious as the hapless, accident prone Frank. He plays the role as Joe, rather than as a Michael Crawford impression, and this works a treat, with his talent for physical comedy, and his deadpan face just so perfect in this role. Funny lines are delivered thick and fast, you really don’t know where one laugh is ending and another is beginning. An accident with the banister spindles is a real highlight, laugh out loud funny in the most visual way. Pasquale just shines in this role, one he was born to play.

He is ably supported by a superb ensemble cast. Susie Blake is super as Betty’s mother, the increasingly drunk Barbara Fisher – the scene with the chicken/wendy house will long live in the memory. Sarah Earnshaw is Betty, and plays the role as the calm straight woman, mayhem goes on all around her but she is almost stoic in her acceptance.  David Shaw-Parker as Father O’Hara has one of the funniest situations, when Frank is forced to perform the ‘Heineken’ maneuver after the vicar chokes on an apricot stone (you can picture it, and it is just as funny as it sounds.) Rounding out the cast are Moray Treadwell and Chris Kiely in duel roles. The whole cast is hilarious and is obviously having a ball.

A wonderful set complete with furniture that is simply falling apart, posters on Bruce Forsyth on the walls, and a cupboard under the stars that is utilised to hysterical effect all add to the general mayhem of the situation comedy. And the script is perfect, with enough nostalgic nods to the television series and what made it so magical, and with one liners that just keep coming.

Funny, warm and wry, I just loved ‘Some Mothers Do Ave Em. British slapstick comedy at its best.

Wed 16 May – Sat 19 May

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The Play That Goes Wrong – So, So Right!

British Comedy has a long tradition of slapstick and farce. From Jeeves and Wooster, to Monty Python, from Benny Hill to The Young Ones, British Comedy always has the ability to send itself up, to be slightly anarchic and to understand that, no matter what goes wrong, the show must go on. That tradition is now in the safe hands of Mischief Theatre and their comic creation, The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, in the side splittingly funny ‘The Play that goes wrong’ which had its press night at the Wolverhampton Grand last night.

‘The Play that goes wrong’ is exactly what it says on the label. The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society are staging ‘The Murder at Haversham Manor’. For once they have a cast that is large enough to actually stage a full version (unlike the time they had to stage an abridged version of Cats called ‘Cat) and Director Chris Bean(Patrick Warner) is very excited, especially as he has a rather large and juicy role as Inspector Carter. Despite the fact that the set is still being created as the audience arrive, and there seems to be a dog missing, the stage is set for a wonderful show. But whatever can go wrong does go wrong, from sets that collapse, actors forgetting their lines, props that disappear, lines being said in the wrong places, doors that won’t open, shelves that have not been erected, swords that break…I could go on and on. Add in the character of Florence Colleymore being played by a series of different characters due to a series of unfortunate injuries, and the funniest ‘dead body leaving a stage’ scene you have ever seen, and you have a play that does go wrong, but in the most glorious, hilarious style.

The ensemble cast are all uniformly excellent, masters of physical, visual comedy who can raise belly laughs from a gesture, a look, a walk or, in the case Alastair Kirton, (as Max playing Cecil) the way he milks any acknowledgement from the audience with wide eyed wonder. Edward Howells is also supremely funny as Dennis playing Perkins, struggling to remember his lines and how to pronounce key words properly (particularly facade and cyanide). Jason Callender who is supposed to be dead for the majority of the play, is also super funny, trying to play dead as people step on his hands, put him onto a broken stretcher and use his as a sofa. If it all sounds crazy, that’s because it is, at times there are so many funny things happening at the same time it is hard to know just where to look, especially when the backstage staff become part of the onstage action.

‘The Play that goes wrong’ is so, so right on every level, hilarious in a way that only British comedy can be. It is an absolute joy, and you will laugh until your sides hurt and the tears roll down your face…and then you will laugh some more.

Go See.

Tue 4 Apr – Sat 8 Apr Wolverhampton Grand

THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG

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The 39 Steps is a laugh a minute at the Birmingham Rep

The classic John Buchan novel that became a classic Hitchcock film is also a play, or maybe that should be amended to a farce or slapstick comedy. The 39 Steps opened at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre last night, and had the audience crying with laughter. Using a brilliant ensemble cast of just 4, and with hilarious one-liners and physical comedy to rival the silent movie greats Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin, The 39 Nine Steps is the most fun you can have in less than 2 hours.

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The Hitchcock version of the book is a taught thriller filled with tension and menace, but the play is a totally different proposition, played with its tongue firmly in cheek. Richard Hannay is a typical 1930s English gent, a little down on his luck and a but aimless in the idea of what to do with his life. A chance visit to the London Palladium sees him meet a mysterious woman, and when she is later murdered in his home, Richard becomes the only person who can save Britain from the work of a malevolent spy organisation known only as ‘The 39 Steps’. If this sounds all very sinister, the truth is actually anarchic craziness that has the audience splitting its sides with laughter.

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As the hero Richard Hannay, Richard Ede is great fun. Dashing and witty, he has a real talent for physical comedy, particularly when faced with having a dead body sprawled across him(his escape is hysterically funny). He is well matched by Olivia Greene who plays all the female roles, showing off a great range of accents that range from a Scottish Lilt to heavy Russian. And then we have Andrew Hodges and Rob Witcomb, who complete the cast and are referred to in the programme as Man 2 and Man 1. This is understandable as they play so many roles, but human (policeman, hotel owners, farmers, salesmen, milkman, spies, etc, etc) and also inanimate (literally every obstacle on route when Hannay and Pamela escape across the Scottish moors.) Superbly funny, showing immense versatility, Hodges and Witcomb hold the play together beautifully.

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There are other moments to enjoy in this play. It is fun picking out all the references to Hitchcock, from his cameo when Hannay escapes from the train, to moments that echo North by Northwest and Pyscho. The set is sparse, and is often set up in front of your eyes, with doors that keep moving and a car that is quite literally constructed at the point when it is mentioned.

The 39 Steps is great fun. Quite simply, an unmissable hoot.

The 39 Steps Birmingham Repertory Theatre 1st March to 5th March 2016.

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