Wandering casually up to the box office last night I was lucky to snag a seat for the opening night of the ACT’s production of Pseudolus. Full houses are rare enough in Jersey and it must give everyone concerned a boost. And, if there’s any justice, the remaining performances will play to equally packed houses.
This comedy is a cross between Frankie Howerd’s Up Pompeii and a Brian Rix farce. The cast must have had a great time in rehearsal . The Greek playwright Plautus – should he be ghostily observing – would immediately approve of this adaptation. The main characters would be familiar to him though the wordplay and schoolboy humour has been changed for the modern audience.
The three bickering women of The Prologue immediately set the evening’s high standard, got the audience chuckling, and left to warm applause. The action is supposedly in Athens, entirely outside house no. LXIX (a bordello) and LXX, that of the nobleman Simo (Mike Monticelli). The straightforward plot is to save the courtesan Phoenicium (Fiona Marchant) from being sold so that Simo’s lovelorn son Calidorus (Isidro Da Mata) could have her.
Undoubted star of the show is Stefan Gough playing the clever slave Pseudolus. He is born to act and this was a Brian Blessed-like performance. He has A Plan and blusters powerfully through the piece, making it up as he goes along. His co-star is his snaggle-toothed slave girlfriend Staphyla (Sian Jones) who we last saw in a much different role as a nun in Bonaventure. Staphyla actually binds the show together whether engaging in repartee centre stage or in the background commentating on or giggling at the action taking place.
The other show-stealer is Kaye Nicholson-Horn as Ballia, the bordello’s madam. She is another consummate actor though probably more suited to straight theatre.
All ends well as Phoenicium is freed to marry Calidorus – though by now Calidorus has mysteriously disappeared; was that fall down the well early on actually unplanned? And the slaves are free to marry.
Go, go – you must see this play. And hopefully someone is recording it for posterity.