‘What makes you think Damian’s on tonight? asked someone in the audience. Could it have been the packed car parks? The near-full theatre? The general air of good-humoured anticipation?
And that was before the curtain rose.
Chesterfield’s favourite funny man Damian Williams couldn’t have a better vehicle for his inimitable brand of comedy than Lurcio the slave in Up Pompeii. Like his 1970s TV counterpart Frankie Howerd, expressive features, voluble eyes and chatting with the audience are what he excels at.
Also being creative with the script (plenty of that), teasing rookie actors (you almost feel sorry for Alex Newbold, who plays naïve young buck Nausius) and berating the stage crew (well, the volcano sound effect was better at the second attempt.)
No wonder the audience kept erupting with laughter. Sorry. Last volcano joke. Promise.
There’s also some fun with a toga, a tunic that barely covers the essentials, and a lot of groanworthy double entendres as everyone goes in search of a bit of the other, and mostly gets it. Apart from Lurcio, of course.
He’s ably hindered by Ludicrus the politician (Richard Colson, back at the Pomegranate after a lengthy absence) and his astringent wife Ammonia (Jacqueline Roberts); Suspenda the blonde temptress (Lucinda Kennard), Voluptua the well-endowed slave girl (Mieke Dockley) and Senna the gloomy Soothsayer (Sophie Leigh); Treacherus the slave trader and his camp sidekick Kretinus (Andrew Ryan and Neil Bull). Ambitious slave Corneous (Ben Roddy) even gets it together with Erotica, daughter of the house (Cloudia Knight.)
The script is rude, politically incorrect and updated to include references to texting, botox and other phenomena that weren’t around in the 1970s.
But most of all it’s Damian.
Up Pompeii is at the Pomegranate till Saturday.
You’ll love it!