Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cut to the Chase at the Queen's Theatre Hornchurch

... three, four!” Some business with the front cloth, an invocation to Thespis, and we're off on a romp through Ancient Rome, with courtesans, slaves and a eunuch on the fiddle. Comedy tonight !

Keeping the show together, and playing guitar for that delicious vaudeville number Everybody Ought To Have A Maid, was Pseudolus, played by Julian Littman, who was also Musical Director. Prancing, preening, going through his repertoire of gestures and grimaces, he lacked the warmth and comic charm which would have endeared us to him and drawn us into the action.

Senex, a stock character from Roman Comedy, was ably played by Stuart Organ, as he escaped his overbearing wife to have a last fling with the lovely Philia. Lindsay Ashworth was the Gilbertian Domina; her delivery of That Dirty Old Man was brilliant. And the Cretan top-of-the-range courtesan was Natasha Moore. I loved Matthew Quinn's Hysterium, the slave with the cheeky smile who ends up as a dead virgin bride [it's a convoluted plot …] And Oliver Seymour-Marsh, who made an impression in Camp Horror and Ladies Down Under in this house, chalked up another memorable character as the inexperienced Hero, almost upstaged by his canary in his big number, Love I Hear. Steve Simmonds struck poses and sang powerfully as Miles Gloriosus [another archetype]. And James Earl Adair, as Erronius, won the audience over as he jogged myopically round Rome.

Cut to the Chase actors are nothing if not versatile, and everyone pitched in musically, from Philia on flute to Panacea on sax. One of the best sight gags was the double bass in the trunk, prelude to one of the most imaginative numbers, the reluctant slave trio accompanying Impossible – tap dancing thrown in. Great running gags included the Pirates dance and the cod muttering from the put-upon pair of slaves.

As we have come to expect at the Queen's, the set [Mark Walters] was magnificent – three varied houses on two levels for the frons scenae, with a nice cartoon feel to the design, and cunning masks around the curved perimeter of the acting area.

Some of the quick fire routines will be snappier as the run goes on, and the sound balance wasn't always kind to Sondheim's intricate lyrics – nonetheless a stylish revival of a masterwork to mark the composer's 80th birthday year, from one of the most enterprising resident companies in the region.

The show was directed by Queen's Artistic Director Bob Carlton, with choreography by Donna Berlin.

this piece first appeared on The Public Reviews

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