Friday 10 February 2012

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum - LAMDA @ Greenwich Theatre

Forum - a funny choice for a straight acting course. Of course it's good to push people outside their comfort zones (amongst other reasons), but it does seem odd to showcase the secondary element of these actors' abilities. Sondheim, too, is notoriously wordy and difficult to sing. Forum, though, is the panto of Sondheim shows and, through excellent characterisation and comic timing, the actors coped very well with the challenges laid out before them.

Forum is inspired by ancient Roman farce and this production was suitably full of socks, sandals and sex. The brilliantly realised set was a fusion of Roman architecture and Las Vegas crass commercialism, filled with tiny details on posters and neon signs. This permeated the costumes too - a modern take on Roman fashion combining robes with bright colours, luminous wigs and even dominatrix gear.

Shevelove and Gelbart's book is a hilarious farce, combining mistaken identities, social satire and a multitude of puns, with various characters including slaves, courtesans and (hysterically funny) eunuchs. This is presented in a theatrical and camp vaudeville style, led by the exceptional Dave Perry as Pseudolus whose stage presence and hyper-energy (reminiscent of Jim Carrey) provided the glue to hold the show together. Though it got off to a slow start (understandably, given this was the cast's first performance), the arrival of the courtesans and their sexy dance solos lifted the energy, whilst showstopper Everybody Ought To Have A Maid was performed with zesty animation to raise the comedy to new levels. The intricate choreography of Pretty Little Picture was also well implemented. Through a mix of grotesque characterisation and jokes delivered with deadpan sincerity, the plot thickened considerably to culminate in a hilarious unravelling. The cast as a whole offered solid performances, from Laurie Jamieson's Elvis-inspired Miles Gloriosus to Will Richards's "always calm" cross-dressing Hysterium. The three Proteans Calum Finlay, Teddy Nicholas and Alex Vlahov also deserve praise for their sheer hard work playing a mix of slaves, soldiers and eunuchs.

It's just a shame, then, that the singing didn't quite live up to the acting. Certain voices stood out above others in solos, whilst as an ensemble the sound was fine. Then again, as noted, singing clearly is not the strength of these performers and, whilst music is (arguably) the most important part of any musical, in this case it should not be dwelt upon. The band, on the other hand, were tight and the sound was well balanced between the singers and musicians.

Challenges overcome, this production of Forum was a success through pure unequivocal hilarity.


Watch: Forum is performed from the 8th-15th of February at the Greenwich Theatre.