Round the Horne ... Revisited 2

Brian Cooke
The Venue
(2005)

Production photograpj

A year ago, reviewing the first episode of Round the Horne ... Revisited, I wrote "This show cannot fail. Like The Play What I Wrote, it takes a show deep within the nation's psyche and replicates an almost perfect version of it on stage". It's good to be proved right occasionally.

From 1965 to 1968 Round the Horne was a radio show that, like Hancock's Half Hour, would keep listeners at home in the days before reel to reel let alone cassettes or recordable CDs allowed time shifting.

The stage version follows a simple but very successful formula. It recreates two episodes of the programme, either side of an interval. With the chance to cherry-pick the best that Barry Took, Marty Feldman and subsequently, Johnny Mortimer and Brian Cooke, could offer, it shouldn't be difficult to come up with 90 glorious minutes of laughs.

After a rather patchy and flat Christmas Special, the original cast are back on top form with a third helping that is consistently hilarious. They also fit their parts like a shopful of gloves after so many performances together.

Jonathan Rigby keeps things flowing as Kenneth Horne and, right from an extremely funny opening, gets his timing absolutely right. He is joined by Robin Sebastian who not only neighs like Kenneth Williams at inappropriate moments but has the right profile and vocal intonations. These two vie for control (but Round the Williams doesn't quite work), supported by Nigel Harrison, Kate Brown and Charles Armstrong as Hugh Paddick, Betty Marsden and presenter, Douglas Smith respectively.

The highlights feature the unforgettable favourites. Julian and Sandy, the gay pals are greeted with applause before they speak and their scene introducing the Universal political party is as good as it gets. With a slogan of "Keep Britain Bona" and Julian as prospective member and Sandy as his camp(aign) manager, we reach sublimity.

There are many other highlights as Dame Celia Molestrangler oscillates and with Binkie Huckaback slaughters Brief Encounter, J Peasmold Gruntfuttock laments the lack of respect for Dirty Old Men and one-man Greenhouse Effect, Epicurious, spits for England.

The two blockbuster films from Horneographic Productions, Rider Haggard's He and especially the private dick (a joke there somewhere) movie Big Broads Don't Squeal are also gems.

This is all smutty, old-fashioned pun, fun. It is also extremely clever and its success Forty Years On is a compliment to the original scriptwriters and cast as much as to their current successors.

With vintage scripts, there may be no surprises but that doesn't stop the audience from having a rare old time. Even for those who have already seen the first two shows, Round the Horne ... Revisited 2 is worth a revisit. Anyone that hasn't seen it and enjoyed the originals first time around or on Radio 7 should book in now for a guaranteed good night out.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher