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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Dr Jeckyll And Mr Hyde – Phil Daniels Shines

The dark and chilling Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was brought to sinister life by the majestic Phil Daniels at the Wolverhampton Grand last night. Robert Louis Stephenson’s classic psychological drama of metamorphosis and evil madness is a brooding tale with moments of pure terror and kept audiences uneasily spellbound as it spun its web of murder and menace.

Dr Jekyll is a highly respected doctor, living the life of a bachelor and scholar. A trip to see his widowed sister sees him taking the books belonging to his father which talk of metamorphosis and whether we will ever untangle the mysteries of the mind. Soon Dr Jekyll is conducting a range of strange experiments in his lab, and a strange, malevolent new friend, Mr Hyde is spied leaving the Dr’s quarters, and is suspected of being behind a series of foul and vicious crimes, including that of a distinguished MP. Only domestic help Annie suspects that there may be more to the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and that they may be one and the same. But will she be able to alert help and save herself, and Dr Jekyll too?

In the title role, Phil Daniels is a joy. He is clearly having a great time with the role, particularly when he morphs into the devilish Mr Hyde. It is a testament to his power as an actor that you can tell exactly which character he is being, even when he changes personality mid way through a scene. His physical presence also add to the performance, and, in the standout scene, the murder of the MP, he is the epitome of pure malevolence.

He is able supported by Sam Cox as the priggish Poole and Grace Hogg-Robinson as maidservant Annie. There is fantastic chemistry between both of these characters and Jekyll, and they help to show that the character of the Dr is actually not that far away from the character of the Madman Hyde.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is not perfect. The first half plods along quite slowly, and is very wordy, with some of the dialogue spoken at quite a fast pace. For a thriller, it seems to take a long time for something to happen, but the shock at the end of the first act, followed by the murder that starts the second act are genuinely shocking and graphic, and the use of the darkness of the set, combined with the mysterious red door of the lab, glowing on a dark stage, add to the feeling of unease and approaching terror.

With the excellence of the central performances, this is certainly a play worth checking out.

Wed 2 May – Sat 5 May

DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE

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Turn Of The Screw Raises The Chills At The Wolverhampton Grand

It is generally agreed the the 1961 film ‘The Innocents’ is one of the most frightening of all ghost stories, based on the classic Henry James novel ‘The Turn of the Screw’, the story of a governess who may, or may not be seeing malevolent ghosts is thought provoking, chilling, and ultimately unexplained. Now the story is chilling audiences at the Wolverhampton Grand with a satisfying new adaptation that has all the menace and lack of answers as the original.

The Governess (a fabulous Carli Norris) is engaged to look after two orphans by their uncle, with the clear instructions that she is totally responsible for their care and is not to bother him with any problems. She goes to Bly House to meet her charges, Flora, a bright and spirited young girl, and her brother, the charming Miles, who was at Boarding School but has been expelled for reasons unknown. Within a short while of being at the house, the Governess is haunted by the spectre of a man who she feels is evil personified. Describing the man to the housekeeper she is told he fits the description of Peter Quint, a former valet who died the previous year. This is followed by visitations from another ghost, this one a woman who may be her predecessor Miss Jessel. It emerges that Miss Jessel was in a sexual relationship with Peter Quint, something the children may have been exposed to. As the visitations and sightings become more frequent, the Governess comes to the conclusion that the children are seeing them too, and that they are in danger. But is this all real, or are the ghosts just in the mind of the governess?

As the Governess, Carli Norris is fabulous. We see two contrasting performances, the older governess trying to explain what happened all those years ago, but wracked with pain and tension, and the younger governess who started out idealistic and in control, but descends (maybe) into the realms of obsession and madness. It is a powerful performance that commands the stage (she is in every scene.)

Annabel Smith is also very impressive as Mrs Conray, who turns out to be a grown up Flora. She commands the stage as she switches effortlessly from the fairly menacing adult version of Flora, to the sweet, joyful younger self. It is a stunning transformation and works perfectly. The cast is rounded out by Maggie McCarthy as the housekeeper Mrs Grose, majestic in keeping the story flowing and filling in the gaps in our knowledge, and Michael Hanratty who plays the male roles, including a powerful, heartbreaking performance as Miles.

 

The staging of the play, on a single set, gives it an atmosphere of claustrophobia and helps to raise the tension. The sudden drop into darkness add to the air of general menace, and the ending, where the ends are not quite tied up, and much is still unexplained, is satisfying and unexpected.

Go see, but don’t expect to sleep well afterwards.

Turn of the Screw

Wolverhampton Grand

Until 14 April, Click here for ticket information