A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart
RNT Olivier
(2004)

Desmond Barrit (Pseudolus)
Philip Quast - centre (Miles Gloriosus surrounded by Courtesans)

Perhaps the most surprising fact about Edward Hall's revival of this musical farce is that 41 years after its London Premiere, Isla Blair who was in that cast, reappears. Presumably, she started as a courtesan. Now she has graduated to the wife from hell, Domina.

The Travelex £10 Season means that the tickets are cheap. This also tests set designers and Improbable Theatre's Julian Crouch, who works wonders with little more than cardboard houses, his imagination and the Olivier's revolve.

The musical itself is beginning to look a little dated, with its Benny Hill-style titillation that harks back to the days when beauty contests were de rigeur. Women had to be beauties or beasts but nothing in between, and men literally chased them.

Desmond Barrit plays Pseudolus, a servant who has previously exercised the likes of Frankie Howerd to whom Barrit pays tribute in his performance, along with Zero Mostel and Phil Silvers.

He gets his hen-pecked boss Senex, played by Sam Kelly, and boss' son (Vince Leigh) into trouble, after they both fall for Caroline Sheen, playing Philia, a blonde virgin so dumb that she can't count to 3 (or 5).

Reviewer: Philip Fisher