The students of Bristol Old Vic Theatre School burst onto stage in this farcical, bawdy musical tale of love, mistaken identity, happy endings and the essential door business without which it would fall at the first fence.
This is a superb production, it is hard to believe the cast are not fully fledged professionals. The only failing is using a backing track to replace live music, which is never fully effective and the dominance of the track determines and leads the performer through the music without the flexibility that a live band could offer. During the overture and entr’acte it is certainly too loud for comfort.
That aside, the quite exceptional Alec Fellows-Bennett as Pseudolus gains the favour of the audience as he romps through the show, creating the most ludicrous stories as if he really had just thought of them; great control and rapport, totally at ease underplaying situations to ensure the comedy reaches its optimum height.
The company are excellent, Darren Seed as Senex is particularly fine with Charlie Haskins as Hysterium, alongside the endeavours of Aaron Anthony, Gareth Tempest and Adam Collier as the Proteans; creating much of what in other productions is usually lost.
Technical achievements are also in abundance: breakneck direction Jenny Stephens, great design Angela Davies, with challenging and effective choreography Gail Gordon, there is nothing out of place.
A great tonic for wintry blues, one wonders without the genius of Sondheim whether this show would have lasted quite so long, after all “Everybody ought to have a maid” is a riot of a showstopper.