Joe Pasquale comes to Tunbridge Wells
25th May 2018
Comic Joe Pasquale reveals to us what it's like to play iconic sitcom comedian Frank Spencer ahead of his new show, Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, coming to the Assembly Hall this�week
I hope�the insurance is comprehensive and the Stage Manager has a well-stocked first�aid kit when Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em comes to Tunbridge Wells next week, I say upon meeting Joe Pasquale.
'Oh blimey, yes!' says the effervescent Joe, who will play Frank Spencer, the character made famous on TV in the 1970s by Michael Crawford, and who that had a nation chorusing his 'Ooh, Betty!' catchphrase.
'We have a stunt coordinator and I'm doing it all - hanging by my ankles, chicken chasing and�all sorts. But we're not doing it as Michael's version of Frank Spencer; that would be an insult to Michael. I'm putting my personality into it, which is how to make it believable. There's a difference between child-like and childish and Frank isn't childish; he believes in what he's doing.
'We did three workshops, and at the last one we had an invited audience who were across an age range of between 18 and 70. All the younger people didn't know the show or have a frame of reference with Michael, but they laughed their socks off. Even the older people who remember the original, forgot Michael doing it in within five minutes - the script is so good,' he enthuses, explaining that the show is based on an original story about Frank trying to get on a TV talent show.
'It's still set in the 70s, so you get the mustard wallpaper, tank tops and all the trimmings. It is so funny, and you can take the whole family. Apart from panto and maybe musicals, there aren't any theatre shows that people of all ages can enjoy together, but this is proper family comedy.'
Agreeing that he is something of an adrenaline junkie (as well as slumming it on - and winning - I'm a Celebrity 14 years ago, Joe has also appeared in TV documentaries that have entailed him being trained by the SAS and imprisoned in Costa Rica). He jokes: 'If it's not dangerous or life threatening then I'm not interested any more.
'I read the book Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway 15 years ago, and it made me think.�
'Now, if I'm not sure about doing something, I automatically say 'OK, let's do it'. You might as well live while you can.'
Asked how this show came about, Joe recalls playing King Arthur in the Monty Python musical comedy Spamalot in the West End a couple of years ago. Stuck in an airless dressing room at the height of summer, wearing chainmail and kingly robes, his broken fan was about as much use as a chocolate fire guard.
So he set about taking it to pieces, cleaning it and putting it back together again. When he turned the power back on the fan exploded.
The show's Director, Christopher Luscombe, and Staff Director, Guy Unsworth, were present and both roared with laughter, calling it a 'pure Frank Spencer moment'.
A seed was sown and Guy sought out Raymond Allen, writer of the original TV series. Fate was smiling for Allen, it transpired, was a big fan of Joe's. Unsworth set about writing a script and now, two years, several script edits and three workshops later, the show is underway.
He is joined by a cast that includes Susie Blake as Frank's disapproving mother-in-law, Moray Treadwell, David Shaw-Parkerand Chris Kiely.
Playing his long-suffering wife Betty is his Spamalot co-star, Sarah Earnshaw.
'Sarah's role is so much more difficult. She has to be softer and so likable, but she's brilliant,' says Joe.
In addition to touring Some Mothers, Joe still does stand-up and has just had a book of short horror stories published.
'It's a book for adults called Deadknobs and Doomsticks. I'm a bit of a horror buff, and when I did an Open University course in geoscience and geology, as a by-product I did some writing courses.'
Sending his stories to an author friend for feedback, his�chum promptly forwarded them on to his publisher who saw the potential and immediately told Joe to write some more.
Reminiscent of the Duracell Bunny in terms of energy, does Joe find acting in a long tour tiring?
'My life is a sitcom, so no acting required for this one, but touring in Some Mothers is a lot easier than my stand-up show, when I usually do 40 one-nighters at different theatres. A week in one place is just like a holiday,' he beams.
'I like to get out and about. I don't just sit there watching the telly. I get the local pamphlets from the hotel and go see whatever there is to see and get to know a place. The Assembly Hall is a great venue and I always look forward to going there.'
As for playing Frank, daredevil Joe is mindful that he has already had his fair share of 'industrial injuries', including getting stuck inside a bingo machine, breaking his toe while tap dancing and dislocating a shoulder in panto.
'It's got danger written all over it for me,' admits Joe cheerily. 'I wouldn't want to be my understudy. But the world is a miserable place sometimes and we need to empty our bins mentally. The only way to do that is release some laughter, and you'll laugh for two hours solidly at this, I promise.'
Some Mother's Do 'Ave 'Em is on at the Assembly Hall from Tuesday May 29 until Saturday June 2. To book, visit www.assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk