Monday, 14 October 2019

REVIEW: Up Pompeii at The Shaw Theatre

I am old enough to remember back in 1970 the BBC comedy that starred Frankie Howerd as a roman slave that was the highlight of the week, although I was surprised that there were just 14 half hour episodes of show at that time. For the 50th anniversary of the first episode Spiteful Puppet Entertainment are publishing a fresh reworking of the format for an Audio recording for release on CD, Amazon and iTunes. It was therefore great fun to return to the Shaw Theatre , which I also first visited around 1970 to see an all star cast make that recording.

Barnaby Eaton-Jones has adapted a spin off stage play first staged in 2011,and written by Miles Tredinnick, into the audio revival and produced and directed the recording. He has updated and freshened the script with a running gag of roman texting, called slating using chalk and constant acknowledgement that this is an audio recording but retains the cheeky innuendo, silly puns and brilliant catchphrases that made the show a success. The word play cleverly confuses pater with patter, docks and Doc's and oars and whores. 

David Benson recreates the style and sound of Frankie Howerd as the servant Lurcio and delivers all the classic asides with obvious glee. We hear the interrupted "Prologue", are warned to "Titter ye not", told to "Shut yer face", dismissed with "please yourself" and are accused of being "you of little faith " and he brilliantly pays tribute to the star and his most famous comic creation. He is wonderful supported by a great cast of ten although he observes " I was in a better cast when I broke my leg"! 

The experienced cast includes many fabulous performers including Frazier Hines (from Emmerdale) as his tutting master Ludicrus Sextus and Madeline Smith (who appeared with Frankie Howerd and the Two Ronnies) as his wife Ammonia. The family is completed by Rosa Coduri as their daughter Erotica and Jack Lane (who regularly tours with David Benson in the Dad's army radio hour) as their son Nausius. 

The story inevitably revolves around sex with Nausius, the failed poet, chasing Volupta (played by Dr Who star Camilo Coduri), Ludicrus seeking a liaison with Suspenda (the amazing Cleo Rocos from the Kenny Everett Show), Erotica chasing after Corneous (Ben Perkins) and Ammonia lusting after the aged Captain Treacherus (Tim Brooke-Taylor, a former Goodies ). As the confusion and misunderstandings escalates, love and sleeping potions start to emulate Midsummer Night Dream, as Lurcio dispenses the doses like Puck. 

Of course the show would not be Up Pompeii without the weird sister, Senna the soothsayer , played by Jilly Breeze warning us "woe, woe and thrice woe" and confusing a snow globe for her crystal ball! 

It was a great fun nostalgic recording and when edited down for the final recording will provide a delightful slice of classic comedy. A show in the full tradition of British Farce, Carry on antics and Seaside postcard innuendo which may not be entirely politically correct for the snowflake generation but will surely raise a titter and help them forget for a moment all today's woe, woe and thrice woe. 

Review by Nick Wayne

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Stalls, B | Price of Ticket: £12.50
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