Home » London Theatre Reviews » I Found My Horn – at the White Bear Theatre

I Found My Horn – at the White Bear Theatre

This show is not without clichés – there are three of note in this production. Firstly, the French horn of the show’s title is personified, speaking (yes, really) in an Eastern European accent on account of it, being made in Czechoslovakia – a country that ceased to exist on 31 December 1992, being split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Secondly, to begin with, Jasper Rees (Jonathan Guy Lewis, reprising a role he first performed in 2008) blows the horn, and a sound comes out, but it’s predictably discordant. A journey, both physical and metaphorical ensues, and – quelle surprise – by curtain call, he has indeed found his horn. Thirdly, there’s his teenage son, Daniel, who is stereotypically and one-dimensionally moody and miserable, apparently with no dress sense, posture or civility. Younger people really aren’t all like that.

I Found My Horn - Photo by Harry Burton.
I Found My Horn – Photo by Harry Burton.

Like many good single-performer shows, Lewis brings to life many other characters besides the main one. Dave Lee, a professional horn player, says he’s from “the People’s Republic of Yorkshire” but Lewis’ northern accent isn’t quite as convincing, at least to me, as his American one – he ends up at the Kendall Betts Horn Camp, held annually in New Hampshire (www.horncamp.org if you really want to know the details). Lewis’ German accent is also spot on – he gets some one-on-one tuition from Hermann Baumann, a horn player with a distinguished career. Baumann’s methods, at face value, seem unconventional but they seem to make their mark on Jasper.

I suppose it’s a rather unique mid-life crisis being played out (sorry), somewhat different from, say, a sudden career change or the need for a flashy car. There’s also a fair bit of technical information, with classical music terminology being rattled off as though the audience is supposed to know what it all means. Being a show that would naturally be of interest to musicians, this approach provides them with an air of familiarity, while laypersons like me can simply identify with Jasper’s bewilderment.

More notable French horn player names crop up, such as Dennis Brain (1921-1957), a celebrated horn player who died driving home from the Edinburgh International Festival by smashing his sports car into a tree, and Philip Farkas (1914-1992), author of The Art of French Horn Playing, considered by many, including Dave Lee, to be the best learning tool for would-be French horn players. Jasper’s overarching aim in rediscovering horn playing is set out fairly early in the show, and knowing how things are supposed to end allows the audience to enjoy the journey unfold, with miscellaneous setbacks and knockbacks along the way.

I’m not sure the show will ultimately encourage too many people to follow in Jasper Rees’ pursed lips and take up a brass instrument – quite realistically (I would imagine), the play asserts it takes considerable time and effort to be a competent French horn player: Jasper had also received complaints from neighbours, having not installed soundproofing whilst committed to daily, lengthy practice. But perhaps the drive to keep going, despite self-doubt, firmly negative professional opinions and the fear of failure, has some wider applications. Jonathan Guy Lewis has such palpable on-stage energy that it’s difficult not to sympathise during the tough times in the story, and equally difficult not to feel elation when things, at last, go as well for Jasper as might be expected. No pain without gain, as the saying goes, and Lewis’ Jasper has more than earned his fair share in this enjoyable and exhilarating experience.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

The White Bear is thrilled to present a revival of the hit one-man show I Found My Horn, starring Jonathan Guy Lewis. First seen in 2008 at the Aldeburgh Festival, and subsequently in the West End, New York and Los Angeles, this joyous, feelgood show places the transforming power of music centre-stage.

A man wakes up in midlife to a broken marriage and the dawning fear that he has done nothing to make himself memorable. Packing away his life as he prepares for divorce, he is struck by an insane idea: why not pick up the French horn he never conquered in his youth?

So it is that, after a lay-off of several decades, Jasper Rees seeks unlikely adventure and redemption via 16 feet of treacherous brass tubing. Dusting off the instrument he last played as a gormless teen, he sets himself an impossible task: to perform a Mozart concerto in front of a paying audience of horn fanatics.

31st January – 11th February 2023
I Found My Horn

Related News & Reviews Past & Present


Scroll to Top