Review: 'It's Ben Hilarious!' - Ben Hur is riotous from beginning to end

PUBLISHED: 17:53 08 July 2019 | UPDATED: 14:13 10 July 2019

Company of Ten presents Ben Hur at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: supplied by Company of Ten

Company of Ten presents Ben Hur at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: supplied by Company of Ten

Company of Ten

Madeleine Burton reviews Company of Ten's production of Ben Hur at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans.

Company of Ten presents Ben Hur at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: supplied by Company of TenCompany of Ten presents Ben Hur at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: supplied by Company of Ten

Laughter on an epic scale is guaranteed to ring out from the Abbey Theatre this week where the Company of Ten is putting on its final production of the season, Ben Hur.

For it is undoubtedly the funniest play put on by the drama company for many years - and could quite accurately be renamed Ben Hilarious.

It takes the 'play within a play' format so beloved by many top writers and is performed by the Daniel Veil Collective with a cast of only four.

And that quartet has to contend with such biblical highlights as the Birth of Christ, the Sermon on the Mount and the Ascension, a sea battle, a Roman orgy and the best known scene from the Ben Hur story, the famous chariot race.

Company of Ten presents Ben Hur at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: supplied by Company of TenCompany of Ten presents Ben Hur at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: supplied by Company of Ten

Of course that is all interspersed with the personal relationships of the collective that threaten to upstage the performance itself.

This is a production which is an absolute hoot from the moment Andrew Baird as Daniel Veil as Judah-Ben Hur comes on to the stage, introducing himself and singing his own praises.

He is joined by Georgia Choudhuri aka circus member Crystal Singer, Matt Hughes-Short aka daytime TV star Omar Lord, and Terry Prince aka veteran Shakespeare actor Edgar T Chesterfield.

And they are all absolutely terrific in their numerous parts with the contrast between the towering Matt and the other members of the cast, particularly tiny Georgia, milked to the maximum.

Company of Ten presents Ben Hur at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: supplied by Company of TenCompany of Ten presents Ben Hur at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: supplied by Company of Ten

The highlight is the sea battle in which the audience participate but if you think the collective has peaked too soon, wait for the chariot race.

Director Rosemary Goodman, a self-confessed fan of the story of Ben Hur, does not miss a trick in steering it towards unrestrained audience mirth.

How the actors do not laugh out loud is beyond me.

They must have had huge fun rehearsing it and look as though they are thoroughly enjoying every minute on stage.

Company of Ten presents Ben Hur at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: supplied by Company of TenCompany of Ten presents Ben Hur at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: supplied by Company of Ten

Rosemary rightly praises her backstage crew in the director's programme notes.

Not only are there umpteen costume changes but numerous 'special' effects which are extremely ambitious for an amateur drama company, even one with the reputation of the Company of Ten.

Ben Hur is riotous from beginning to end - I defy anyone to come away from the Abbey Theatre without a huge smile on their face.

It can be seen until Saturday and tickets are available from the box office on 01727 857861 or go to www.abbeytheatre.org.uk

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