Reviewed by Dave Smith
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is a light 1962 musical comedy and Barry Hill’s direction of this production conveys that lightness. Set in Ancient Rome, the plot develops into a farce of mistaken identity and frustrated love, along with the comings and goings of the middle class, soldiers, slaves and concubines.
The G&S Society is known for its fine singing and this production is well served in that department. The voices of Natalie Tate and James Nicholson as young lovers Philia and Hero are well-blended, Anne Doherty is a powerful Domina in song and character, while John Greene (Senex) and David Rapkin (Lycus) perform well. Peter Hopkins as Miles Gloriosis is a commanding figure with a baritone to match. Bring Me My Bride, which he sings with boisterous chorus support, is a highlight.
Much of the action is carried by Nicholas Bishop as Pseudolus, the manipulative slave who would be free, and he is up to it. He has the required presence and his ensemble work is noteworthy. His clownish off-sider and fellow slave, Hysterium (Greg Beer), is a suitable foil and their interactions highlight the farcical character of the play.
Although the pace is fast and gains speed as the various Philia look-alikes come and go in Act II, the comedy doesn’t always succeed. Making the quartet of eunuchs so giggly and frivolous wears a little thin. Some of the other slapstick elements also seem dated and don’t get the audience laughing a lot. Nevertheless, the atmosphere is upbeat and enthusiastic throughout.
The orchestra, conducted by James Clark, has a full sound and handles Stephen Sondheim’s score skilfully.
While the set is basic – three pastel coloured flats – Bronwen Major’s costumes dress the play well in a mixture of Ancient Rome and Commedia that works just fine.