WHEN Hazel Castro bought a raffle ticket, she did not expect her prize to take her back to ancient Rome.
Among the more unusual prizes on offer from the Men’s Shed meeting place was a chance to appear in local theatre company The Florians’ production of stage farce A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum and Castro now finds herself mixing with the slaves, centurions and concubines of the early Stephen Sondheim musical.
"I was actually expecting a bottle of perfume or a nice box of chocolates," she admitted.
"This was a lovely surprise."
This will be something of a role reversal for Hazel, who has been more used to watching her daughter Georgie performing on stage with Georgie Scottish youth company YDance. Next week it will be Georgie’s turn to watch her mother perform.
However, Hazel does have some performing experience of her own having had a background in historical dance — handy for a play set almost two millennia ago.
It was Hazel’s background as a dancer that led show director Fiona Grant to offer her a more prominent part than originally planned.
"When we offered the raffle prize, we didn’t know who we were going to get," Fiona said.
"It might have only been someone who wanted a walk on part, but when Hazel came in we decided she could do a lot more."
However, Hazel does admit to having a certain about of nervousness about taking on the role of bell ringing concubine Tintinabula.
"I had a lot of trepidation, but everyone was so welcoming from the word go," Hazel said.
"It’s been the best raffle prize ever. It’s such a great show. The songs are so good, the jokes are so funny and the leads are just perfect. I keep telling everyone I know to come and see it — I keep forgetting that I have to do something in it!"
In fact, Hazel has been having so much fun that her unexpected appearance might not be a one-off.
"Watch this space," she laughed.
The first show with music and lyrics written by Stephen Sondheim, it is also the first full musical to be performed by The Florians in many years.
"It’s probably the silliest of Sondheim’s shows, but because it’s not performed that often, people forget it’s by Sondheim," Fiona said.
"Yet it was his first solo Broadway hit."
The decision to stage A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum was made by Fiona and Matthew Jeorrett, formerly of the Dingwall Players, who is making his debut as musical director.
It is also a first for Fiona, who is directing her first musical and for actors Stephen Laurie and Steven Kelly who have their first lead roles with the company as respectively romantic lead Hero and his love rival, overbearing soldier Miles Gloriosus.
The key role belongs to Leonard King, a relative newcomer to the company.
He steps into the sandals of Zero Mostel, who played the role in the original Broadway production and 1966 film version, to play wily slave Pseudolus.
A slave of the wealthy but henpecked Senex (Eddie Docherty), Pseudolus agrees to help his master’s dim witted son Hero win the lobe of the beautiful Philia (Alison Ozog) for the promise of his freedom.
The problem is that Philia is the property of Senex’s neighbour, "procurer of flesh" Marcus Lycus (Brian Howlett) and promised to Miles Gloriosus.
"Leonard is on stage almost all the time and he really carries the show, but it is still very much an ensemble cast," Fiona said.
"I’ve never been in a show where there’s been so much of a team effort. It’s been a real labour of love for everyone involved."
• A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum will be at The Florians Little Theatre, Bught Land, from Tuesday 15th to Saturday 19th September at 7.30pm.