Stephen Sondheim is the musical theatre equivalent of Marmite – it’s either love or hate and this seldom seen Sondheim is a brave choice by Runway Theatre Company.
Personally I am in the love category – believing Sondheim’s works have the ability to scratch below the surface of life and really speak to an audience, but this isn’t your average Sondheim. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum tells the bawdy story of slave Pseudolus and his attempts to win his freedom by helping his young master Hero woo the girl next door. The show is at its heart a farce, with punning a-plenty, mistaken identity and many a double-entendre on show.
The set alone sets the tone – a rollicking Roman riot of eye-poppingly bright colour and the infectious spirit continues throughout the performance.
Comedy is by far and away the most difficult genre to pull off but this is a sure-footed cast who deftly handle the quick witted dialogue and full-on farce with a joyous enthusiasm and an ebullient spirit. In a knock-out cast it seems unfair to single anyone out for particular praise but central to the success of the show is the casting of Will Pollock as Pseudolus and the quite frankly hysterical Iain G Condie as Hysterium. The pair’s razor-sharp timing and well-honed comedy skills provoke genuine belly-laughs from the audience throughout. Also deserving of praise are the ever-sonorous tones of J Campbell Kerr and Tom Russell, who to complement their already impressive vocal skills add perfectly pitched comedy acting to their repertoire.
This is a joyous production by a spirited company richly deserving acclaim, not only for their polished performance but for their clever artistic choices. Runway Theatre Company radiate warmth and charm and above all deliver unfailing quality every time.
Runs until Saturday 18th May 2013 at Eastwood Park Theatre