A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
Paul Johnson | 09 Nov 2012 15:49pm
LET’S be honest, Stephen Sondheim’s music is an acquired taste, but it is a taste I acquired many years ago so I was very happy about seeing this production – and I wasn’t to be disappointed.
Leaving aside some slightly odd notes emanating from parts of James Stead’s otherwise superb orchestra during the overture ( maybe that was the ‘something peculiar’ referred to in the opening number! ), everything really did turn out all right and the audience clearly loved this show, as did I.
The plot takes up almost two full pages of the very impressive programme so all I shall tell you is that it is a farce set in ancient Rome, involves mistaken identities, a little cross-dressing and a love affair, with the slave Pseudolus responsible for pretty much everything that happens, whether good or bad.
A few weeks ago P&P were distraught when the actor originally playing the role had to withdraw, but Nick Marsden stepped into the breach and saved the day. You’d never have known how late he joined the cast though, because his outstanding performance was secure, measured and an absolute joy, lifting the production to the heights.
Casting all round was first-class, with Adrian Lane thoroughly enjoying himself as the randy Senex, Clare Albanozzo more than living up to her character’s name as Domina and Paul Simkin just right as their innocent son, Hero. Sarah Bayliss couldn’t have been more perfect as the object of his affections, the virgin Philia.
Ray Adnett really got his teeth into the role of Hysterium and provided a lovely characterisation, as did Simon Dade as Lycus, a buyer and seller of courtesans, and Martin Willis as warrior and would-be husband of Philia, Miles Gloriosus. When you don’t have to do much more than walk onto the stage, cross it, say a line and walk off again, in lesser hands there might be little opportunity to create much of a character – but Crispin Goodall certainly created a super one as the old man Erronius, sent to walk seven times over the hills outside Rome for reasons far too complicated to explain here. I can only assume he’s still walking, as I seem to remember that he’d only done three circuits by the end of the show.
There were some real characters in the chorus too, and as we have come to expect from P&P the standard of singing was very high indeed. There were also lots of lovely unique touches in Sylvia Denning’s expertly directed and beautifully costumed production, which still has another three performances to run.
- : user
- : 12/06/2012