Too young to have seen Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em during its heyday of the 1970s, Guy Unsworth is nevertheless a huge fan of Raymond Allen’s classic TV sitcom and has given it a new lease of hilarious life. Vicky Edwards talked to the writer-director about his acclaimed stage version starring Joe Pasquale, which, after its acclaimed 2018 premiere, launches a new UK-wide tour this week.
“I saw re-runs of Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em and I love it; the slapstick, the situations and the character of Frank, who is one of the great British underdogs. We sort of want him to fail because it is funny when he does, but we root for him to succeed too. Frank has the energy and loyalty of a Labrador puppy combined with the morals of his late overprotective mother.”
Working together on Spamalot in the West End, Guy recalls how actor and comedian Joe Pasquale blew up an electric fan in a bid to mend it. Inadvertently creating a moment that was straight out of Some Mothers (a BANG! followed by the smell of singed hair and a look of electrified bewilderment on Joe’s face), the idea for Joe to play Frank in a stage version was born, and Guy and Joe joined forces to drive the project forward.
— Guy Unsworth (@guyunsworth) February 11, 2020
Writing the script was a particular privilege for Guy, who, after studying Industrial Economics at the University of Nottingham won the Directors Guild of Great Britain award for Best New Director. Following postgraduate training and the mentorship of leading theatre directors on numerous productions in the West End and at the Royal Shakespeare Company, he is now regarded as one of theatre’s brightest young talents.
A huge fan of British comedy and with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the subject, Guy says that he had clear ideas about the Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em stage play from the outset.
Joe Pasquale is a fantastic spirit in a room; such a hard worker and great natural comedian, but also a technician
“I was very keen that it shouldn’t just be a re-run of old episodes, so it is based on a particular point in Frank’s life, when Betty was trying to tell him she is pregnant. I knew it had to be something written specifically for the stage – something that would work in a theatre. What we have now is quite a traditional British farce, with surprises. It is two hours in real-time, set one evening when they are expecting people for dinner. Chaos ensues!” he teases, refusing to give more away.
Agreeing that there seems to have been a developing trend for theatrical comedies in recent times, Guy explains why that might be. “We’ve spent a lot of time in the last few years discussing what we shouldn’t be laughing at. Watching something that makes us laugh and feel warm is a reaction to that, I think.”
— Guy Unsworth (@guyunsworth) February 12, 2020
And with Joe playing the hapless Frank it seems that laughter is guaranteed. “I loved working with Joe on Spamalot. He’s just a fantastic spirit in a room; such a hard worker and great natural comedian, but also a technician. He, I’m glad to say, likes working with me too. I wouldn’t do this without him,” says Guy.
He makes clear that Joe’s Frank isn’t a carbon copy of Michael Crawford’s original character. “Michael was brilliant; iconic. It is difficult to imagine another Frank Spencer, so it needed somebody who was really going to make Frank their own. Joe is perfect. Interestingly, the role of Frank was originally offered to Norman Wisdom before Michael Crawford. Norman was 57 at the time, so while Joe is older than Michael, he’s not as old as Norman was when he was considered for the part.”
So, in a nutshell, why should audiences flock to see a stage version of one of the country’s best-loved British sitcoms? “People should come to Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em because it is a great celebration of that period of time for all the family. It’s got some great 70s music in it and is simply a feel-good, funny and nostalgic trip to the theatre with a really great cast,” urges Guy.