Joe Pasquale

Joe Pasquale

Date of birth: 20-08-1961
Joe Pasquale's big break came when he came second in ITV talent show New Faces in 1987, kick-starting his career as a touring comedian, and subsequently a pantomime regular. On TV he starred in two of ITV's Audience With... specials in 2005 and 2006. He was crowned King of the Jungle in the 2004  I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here series, he learned to skate in Dancing on Ice in 2013, hosted The Price Is Right on ITV and has made regular appearances on Tonight At The London Palladium.  He is also a qualified pilot and has run a London Marathon.
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Joe Pasquale in Some Mothers Do Ave Em

Review by Steve Bennett at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley

It is – at least in enough ways to satisfy the nostalgia market it’s clearly aimed at – the same old Some Mothers Do Ave Em. Frank Spencer, variously in beret and mac, period tank top, or garish ‘best’ suit, is as inept and accident-prone as ever. And that whistled theme tune is very evocative…

But Guy Unsworth’s theatrical revival is played out much more like a traditional stage farce, complete with dropped trousers and ‘oh no, the vicar’s coming round!’ peril. The vicar here is replaced by something even more establishment: the BBC, with an old-fashioned stentorian producer visiting to give Frank his big break, doing magic on a talent show.

Joe Pasquale is no Michael Crawford, either, nor does he try to be. While Frank Spencer might have been the most imitated character of the 1970s, this is no impersonation, but a slightly different person.

Much of this is due to age. Crawford had just turned 30 when he took the role of a child-like naif, loved for his optimistic innocence in a grown-ups. That’s harder to pull off when you’re 56. His Spencer can, therefore, come across as much more of an irritant that a sympathetic figure. 

Pasquale’s lesser capacity for the stunts that make the original so memorable – let alone the limitations of doing it live rather than on camera – restrict the slapstick opportunities too. The pratfalls, therefore, mostly lie not on his shoulders but on the set’s, designed by Simon Higlett to falls apart as the fruits of Frank’s inept DIY come home to roost, if I’m allowed a mixed metaphor.

There is some physical business, but our squeaky-voiced protagonist is also given some particularly tricksy wordplay to deal with – again out of character from the original Frank. Pasquale does get laughs, and quite a bit of audience appreciation, for pulling off these linguistic challenges. 

Such showpieces are slightly at odds with the rest of this character’s  propensity for verbal misadventures, but Pasquale papers those cracks. Among his misspoken phrases, he coins the malapropis  ‘the Heineken manoeuvre’ for the Heimlich manoeuvre. And when he undertakes it,  the assumption from an onlooker is, of course, that he’s suddenly decided to bugger someone in his front room.

For the comedy here is as traditional as it is broad. There are a lot of seaside-postcard double entendres, and if you are after an elegant farce like, say, Frasier or Fawlty Towers, they won’t give you one.  Fnaar.

The script requires a massive suspension of disbelief that any human being would ever behave like these characters do. That may be an ask too far for audience schooled in modern, realistic comedy, but the older demographic at this performance certainly enjoyed it. 

Based on Raymond Allen’s original stories, a key storyline here is that everyone but Frank knows that his wife Betty is pregnant, leading to the usual comic confusion and sniggering misunderstandings. Even if it’s a bit of a stretch for Pasquale to be the frightened, excited, expectant first-time father.

As Betty, and more than 20 years younger than her stage husband, Sarah Earnshaw is under-used, little more than an exasperated foil for Frank’s hyperactive antics, as she channels Michelle Dotrice’s original portrayal. The underdeveloped female character is probably the fault of a near 50-year-old script.

Susie Blake – formerly of the Victoria Wood ensemble – could also be given more to do, as never quite allowed to take centre stage. Which is a shame as she does a lovely turn as Frank’s increasingly tipsy mother-in-law. Of the supporting cast, Moray Treadwell shines most brightly,  demonstrating fine poker-faced straightman timing as both the local bank manager and the BBC executive.

There’s a convoluted conclusion typical of sitcomland – as if we could ever forget that’s where we are – that also manages to engineer a nicely choreographed dance with three Frank Spencers, suggesting a musical adaptation could have been even more fun.

As it stands, if you accept the clichés of broad old-school farce and wordplay you can often see coming, this revival of Some Mothers Do Ave Em is played out with enough verve to satisfy. But with little attempt to update its sensibilities, it’s unlikely to win over a new generation of fans.

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Published: 15 Mar 2018

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