Up Pompeii - anniversary audio revival

London theatre news: Monday 14 October 2019

Comedy - Off-West End - Shows

David Benson led an all-star cast to record a 50th anniversary audio revival of the Frankie Howerd comedy classic, 'Up Pompeii', at London's Shaw Theatre.
Up Pompeii - An Audio Revival at the Shaw Theatre

Artwork created by Robert Hammond

Saturday 12 October saw an all-star cast recording a new feature-length audio revival of Up Pompeii at London's Shaw Theatre.

The production, by Spiteful Puppet, marks the 50th anniversary of the first broadcast of 'Up Pompeii' on the BBC's 'Comedy Playhouse'.

David Benson as Lurcio in Up Pompeii A 50th Anniversary Audio Revival

David Benson as Lurcio - photo by Kim Jones

Up Pompeii was a big BBC TV hit for comedian Frankie Howerd and was broadcast between 1969 and 1970 acquiring a loyal following of 12 million viewers.

As Lurcio, Frankie Howerd constantly broke the fourth wall, taking the audience into his confidence with a non-stop barrage of double entendres and risqué gags, all of which go unheard by the other characters.

This revival of Up Pompeii is adapted from the successful spin-off stage play by Miles Tredinnick, and was based on the original characters and BBC TV scripts devised by Talbot Rothwell (a scriptwriter for the 'Carry On' films) and Sid Colin.

The audio adaptation was written by Barnaby Eaton-Jones, with Daniel McGachy and Iain McLaughlin; by kind permission of Tessa Le Bars Management.

Two recording sessions, in the afternoon and evening, took place at the Shaw Theatre performed in the company of public audiences.

ActDrop caught the afternoon session where the cast of 11 - srurrounded by a forest of microphones - brought to life all the regular characters that used to populate the BBC series.

Multi award winning David Benson was in fine form, leading the all-star cast, as Frankie Howerd playing Lurcio.

Cast of Up Pompeii; A 50th Anniversary Audio Revival - photo by Kim Jones

Cast of Up Pompeii A 50th Anniversary Audio Revival - photo by Kim Jones

The rest of the cast included ...

Frazer Hines ('Emmerdale'/'Dr Who') as Ludicrus Sextus

Cleo Rocos ('The Kenny Everett Show'/'Celebrity Big Brother') as Suspenda

Tim Brooke-Taylor OBE (best known as one third of the TV comedy trio The Goodies and a panelist of  'I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue' on BBC R4 for 40 years) as Captain Treacherus

Jack Lane ('Dad's Army Radio Hour'/'Wisdom of a Fool') as Nausius

Madeline Smith (Hammer Horror star who appeared with Frankie Howerd in the films  'Up Pompeii' and 'Up the Front') as Ammonia

Camille Coduri (best known for playing Jackie Tyler in 'Doctor Who' from 2005-2010/ 'Him & Her') as Voluptua

Rosa Coduri ('Lucky Man/Jekyll and Hyde') as Erotica

Jilly Breeze ('Da Vinci's Demons') as Senna

Ben Perkins ('Hedda Gabler', 2016) as Corneous, and

Barnaby Eaton-Jones (Producer/Director, his third revival after BBC Radio 4 Extra's 'I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again ... Again!' and Audible's 'The Goodies') as Kretinus.

The recording was a smoothly-run and humorous affair with the cast all looking as though were enjoying it immensely.

The story for this anniversary recording is pretty-much what afficiandos of Up Pompeii would expect, echoing all the basic elements of the original including all the characters and in-jokes too.

There are the usual sexual inuendos laced the whole way through, with some leading to suitable groans from the audience, and Lurcio responding with "Please yourselves" when the audience didn't rise to the bait.

The story finds Lurcio's master (Ludicrus Sextus - played by Frazer Hines) deciding to do some research for an anit-vice bill that he intends to bring before the Roman senate.

That entails (inevitably) spending the weekend with the local nymphomaniac (Cleo Rocos's Suspenda).

But the story quickly dives into the depths of mutiple complications when Lurcio has to hide a run-away slave who is sought by the evil Captain Treacherus (played by Tim Brooke-Taylor).

David Benson was in fine form and, after the interval, he even managed to find a Lurcio toga and hairpiece from his wardrobe to add a little extra authenticity to the proceedings.

All the usual gags and phrases from the original crop up, and there are nods to modernity as 'slating' (for texting) is introduced, and we find an 'Amazonian delivery' being made.

There were plenty of laughs to be had, especially in the first half, bringing back memories for many audience members of the cherished the format of the original series.

The two recordings will now be combined and edited with The 'Up Pompeii; A 50th Anniversary Audio Revival' scheduled for release on CD as a 2 disc set (priced at £12.99) on 29 November 2019.

And the revival will also be made available as a download via Amazon and iTunes etc.

You can pre-order the CD set right now at this address.


Welcome to ancient Rome, where the steps of the Forum are peopled by nubile slave girls and a range of outrageous characters including Lurcio's owner, Ludicrus Sextus the Senator, his wife Ammonia, his son Nausius and his daughter, Erotica.

Lurcio attempts to deliver his prologue and begin proceedings before he's quickly caught up in the myriad of sexual liaisons in all quarters of his master's house.

Why does Ludicrus not leave for the Senate meeting in Rome?

Why does his wife return so quickly from the country?

Who will take care of the escaped slave girl, Voluptua, and will Nausius's love poetry improve?

Whilst growing chaos ensues, an increasing rumbling is heard in the distance - what could that possibly be?

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