Round The Horne

Barry Took and Marty Feldman, adapted by Tim Astley
Apollo Theatre Company
The Haymarket, Basingstoke

The Company

For those of a “certain age”, you may recall sitting round the radio after Sunday lunch listening to the Light Programme with the dulcet tones of Kenneth Horne as he presented Around The Horne. If so then you are in for a nostalgic evening of pure entertainment.

For those who can’t remember this programme starring the likes of Kenneth Williams, John Pertwee, Betty Marsden and Hugh Paddick, you are in for a real delight.

Apollo Theatre Company brings a 50th anniversary tour written by Barry Took and Marty Feldman to the Haymarket Theatre in Basingstoke. We are treated to two of the programmes with some of the best sketches from the 67 broadcast episodes.

The setting is the BBC’s Paris Studios in London with five simple chairs at the back of the stage and, on the right, the foley effects engineer / musician (Conrad Segal) who provides all the sound effects live.

Nick Wymer is the impeccable announcer Douglas Smith who introduces the programme. From the very start, the audience is in stitches with laughter.

The casting is superb with Julian Howard McDowell perfectly capturing the earnest character of Kenneth Horne as he gives the answers to last week’s quiz or playing the master spy in an MI5 adventure.

Colin Elmer not only looks liked Kenneth Williams but also has perfected the nuances and voice and that petulant attitude towards his fellow performers. His character Rambling Syd Rumpo singing his unintelligible folk song littered with innuendos had the audience in fits of knowing laughter and even joining in with the chorus.

He teams up with Jonathan Hansler playing Hugh Paddick to bring two of the most loved characters of the show, the flamboyantly camp Julian and Sandy with gay slang language ‘Polari’, determined to keep Britain ”bona.”

Many of the sketches are parodies. The excellent Eve Winters, in the role of Betty Marsden playing Dame Celia Molestrangler, joins Paddick as Binkie Huckaback in a skit that is a spoof of Noël Coward’s Brief Encounter with the clipped English accent of Charles and Fiona. Charles: “I know” Fiona: “ I know you know,” Charles: “I know you know I know,” Fiona: “Yes, I know.”—wonderful stuff and the audience loved it.

Adapted by Tim Astley, who also confidently directs, this is a superb evening’s entertainment and I left the theatre wanting more.

You can catch it at the Hexagon in Reading, Yvonne Arnaud in Guilford, Clwyd Theatre Cymru and Salisbury Playhouse.

Reviewer: Robin Strapp