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Apollo Theatre Company – Round The Horne | Review

Barry Took and Marty Feldman’s radio comedy series Round The Horne first aired in 1965, and is frequently repeated on Radio 4 Extra, but you would have to be of a “certain age” to remember the original broadcasts. Relying on double-entendres and risqué jokes the programmes starred Kenneth Williams, already popular through his appearances on Hancock’s Half Hour, Hugh Paddick, Betty Marsden and Bill Pertwee, plus Kenneth Horne, to give the whole thing a sense of respectability. Each episode followed a similar format divided in the middle by a musical interlude: a close harmony group, the Fraser Hayes Four plus an orchestra – the Hornblowers, unfortunately, both omitted in this stage version, as was Bill Pertwee! Instead, we had a duo, “Java Jive”, who also operated the sound effects on stage.

Round The HorneEach part of the show consists of an extended version of one episode. Most effective was Colin Elmer as Kenneth Williams, not only looking and sounding like him but finding the variety of voice and gesture for many of his roles, including Rambling Sid Rumpo and Sandy. Hugh Paddick (Julian – the other half of the camp pair) was hilariously played by Alex Scott Fairley, as ageing juvenile Binky Huckerback, and as Bill Pertwee’s “Seamus Android”, famous for making the real-life Eamonn Andrews livid because Took and Feldman pounced on his weaknesses as a broadcaster. Both actors lifted the production every time they were allowed, as did Eve Winters (Betty Marsden) especially enjoying radio cook extraordinaire Daphne Whitethigh – the rhino cooking scene being especially amusing (“get your rhino and stuff it”) even if one has heard it, as I have, many, many times.

The announcer, Douglas Smith, brought in by the writers to add more “gravitas” to the programme, and whose role quickly became much more when he was asked to play animals, car noises and read spoof advertisements, as well as singing in the Round the Horne pantomime, was read by Darren Street, who certainly looked the part.

Julian Howard McDowell kept everything together as Kenneth Horne, unfortunately not with the suave, fruity voice that those of us old enough remember.

Simple 1960s costumes were in the hands of Kris Benjafield and the stage adaptation and direction was by Tim Astley.

The “certain age” audience at Hastings obviously enjoyed the show – indeed you would be hard put not to: it is gently amusing, unassuming entertainment and worth catching on its one-night stand tour of much of the UK!

4 stars

Review by John Groves

Apollo Theatre Company are a professional theatre company based in Guildford, Surrey, and aim to produce exciting productions of both classic and original plays and comedies.
http://www.apollotheatrecompany.com/

Author

  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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