Frank Spencer impressions were all the rage across school playgrounds in the 1970s and early 1980s.
Even though you could hardly move for small children shouting “ooh Betty” and “the cat done a whoopsie” in homage to Some Mothers Do Ave Em, it’s still difficult to imagine anyone but Michael Crawford in one of comedy’s most iconic roles.
A brave decision then to bring it to the stage for a UK tour which started its run last week with a stint the Wyvern Theatre in Swindon.
Fortunately, unlike Frank himself, the production did not put a foot wrong. Joe Pasquale in the role of Spencer (FW) is an inspired choice thanks to his distinctive voice and underdog appeal. He did a brilliant job of recreating Frank’s mannerisms effectively and believably without being a bad tribute act, and in fact was cast without audition for the show after breaking a fan in true Spencer-style in front of the writer of the show, Guy Unsworth.
Obviously the scale of the show avoided the larger set pieces such as steering a car into the sea or flying through the church roof, but Pasquale did get “articulated” in a splendid recreation of one of the original stunts involving a staircase.
The story is very closely based on the TV series and feels very much like a whistle-stop tour of Frank’s adventures, originally written by Raymond Allen, packing plenty into the show including the iconic beret and trench coat.
There were DIY disasters aplenty, and an ingenious set design that captured the aesthetic of the sitcom while pleasingly falling apart and exploding at just the right moments.
The story centres on two original storylines – that of Betty trying to tell Frank that she is expecting and the BBC visit to film Frank’s DIY. Although the small ‘twist’ didn’t quite make sense, the story managed to pack in lots of fan favourites and cleverly meshed together Frank’s famous mispronunciations, jokes and lines from the three original series.
The six-person cast captured the essence of the original series perfectly with Sarah Earnshaw as a fantastic Betty, ably capturing the horror of being married to someone so accident prone. I actually thought Susie Blake as Frank’s mother-in-law was better than the original TV cast member and there was tremendous support too from Moray Treadwell, David Shaw-Parker and Chris Kiely who combined very physical comedy with lines from the original show that have been enhanced and updated.
The show is touring the UK and whether you’re a fan of Some Mothers or new to the world of Frank Spencer, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
To see what’s coming up at the Wyvern Theatre, visit http://www.swindontheatres.co.uk/Online/whats-on-wyvern-theatre
Photos by Scott Rylander