A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, having possibly the longest name in musical theatre, is a multi-Tony award winning musical by Stephen Sondheim. Written in 1962, it is an original story based on the 3rd century comedies of Titus Maccius Plautus. Having also been made into a film, Forum becomes the latest MTSoc production, directed by Sebastian Junemann.
In ancient Rome, an old man Senex (Michael Willmott) lives with his domineering wife Domina (Sophie Campen) and their ?innocent? son Hero (Matthew Stringer). They own several slaves, the head slave Hysterium (Robert Felstead) and the main character Pseudolus (Ben Rowe), Hero?s slave, who wishes to be free. In the neighbouring houses live Marcus Lycus (Ken Carter), who trades in beautiful women and Erronius (Barry Whiteside), who is abroad searching for his long-lost children (stolen in infancy by pirates).
Senex and Domina leave on a trip, placing Hysterium in charge of Hero, with special instructions to keep him away from women, especially those of Lycus. Hysterium looks for Hero, but Hero is lurking around the house of Lycus and confesses that he is in love with the virgin courtesan Philia (Rachel Clare). Pseudolous appears, chased by roman citizens after scamming to raise money to buy his freedom. Pseudolous is forced to give the money back, but convinces Hero that he will win Philia?s love in exchange for freedom.
They convince Lycus to show them all his available courtesans, but Philia is not there. Suddenly she appears at the window of Lycus? house, but Philia has been sold to Captain Miles Gloriosus (Al Norman), a renowned warrior who is coming to collect her that day. Pseudolous convinces Lycus that Philia has a Cretan plague, causing victims to endlessly smile in its terminal stages, and that Philia should be isolated in Senex?s house. Lycus agrees; Philia and Hero spend time together and they fall in love, however Philia still feels bound to honour her contract with the captain.
Hysterium turns up and is horrified to see Philia and Hero together. Pseudolous hatches a plan to give Philia a sleeping potion, rendering her unconscious. The ?dead? Philia will be removed from the house and Hero and Philia are then free to sail to Greece. However, Pseudolous is out of one ingredient for the potion, ?mare's sweat?, and sets of to get some. He leaves Philia with the instruction that upon the Captain?s arrival he will knock three times on the front door.
The unexpected return of Senex, who knocks on his own front door three times, causes Philia to believe Senex is the Captain and starts a comical chain of events. Pseudolous convinces Senex that Philia is his new maid, but his lust remains. He forces Senex to take a bath in Erronius? house. Erronius turns up from his unsuccessful search to find his children, who wear a ring depicting a gaggle of geese, and is convinced his house is haunted. As the Captain gets closer, Pseudolous turns Senex?s house into Lycus? brothel and pretends he is Lycus himself. When Philia refuses to drink the potion Hysterium is forced to become the ?dead? Philia. The Captain though is coming from Crete and knows of no smiling plague. Domina also shows up, convinced her husband is ?up to no good?. Will it end in happiness or tears...you?ll have to watch to find out!
The show was fantastically entertaining, especially the performance of Ben Rowe. Noteworthy too were Robert Felstead and Michael Willmott and the number ?Everybody Ought to Have a Maid?, featuring all three was the highlight of the show. Special mentions go to Laura McCaughey, Cahoimhe Coyle, Maggie Holme, Sarah Oduekun, Christina Ferdinand and Betty Tai, the courtesans raising the temperature of a March evening! Also praise to Marianne Lynch, a stalwart of the chorus whom I?m always impressed by. Some of the choreography by Oliver Namet and Rachel Clare was very inventive and the MTSoc band overcame some tuning and timing issues at the start of each half to accompany the production well. I was extremely impressed by the staging and the costumes, which must have taken forever to make! Overall, well worth going for a night of great fun.
Forum is running in the Union Concert Hall, Union Building, Beit Quad every night until Saturday 14th March. Tickets cost £5 for students and £7.50 from non-students and are available online or on the door.