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Round the Horne . . . . Revisited
by Lizzie Loveridge

Presents her wogglers to be nadgered.
--- Rambling Syd Rumpo, Folk Song Collector
Round the Horne
Robin Sebastian as Kenneth Williams and Jonathan Rigby as Kenneth Horne
(Photo: Jonathan Dockar Drysdale)
A new theatre audience has been found in London's West End. Amazingly this group of fifty and sixty somethings are flocking to The Venue in London's Leicester Square to recapture the comedy pleasures of their youth. Round the Horne is a comedy tribute show to a great BBC radio programme of the 1960s. This particular brand of humour may well be incomprehensible to anyone who hasn't heard the radio programmes but for those who have, it is the very best night of nostalgia for a bygone age of simple puns and fruity innuendo.

Kenneth Williams (Robin Sebastian) had a large following partly due to his appearances in the British Carry On films of the same era. His own inimitable style of improvised hurt pride and camp suggestion laid the foundation for modern gay comics such as Julian Clary and Graham Norton. Kenneth Horne (Jonathan Rigby) on the other hand was largely Williams' straight man but with a magnificent deep gravy browning voice.

In a set which resembles a broadcasting studio of 1964, all stand up microphones and cables, five presenters front two episodes of the half hour comedy show Round the Horne. Betty Marsden (Kate Brown) is called upon to impersonate every wide eyed female from dowager duchess, Dame Celia Molestrangler, to Australian moral reformer, Judy Coolibah, to breathy lover, Fiona. Nigel Harrison takes on Hugh Paddick's roles who, with Williams, completed the "Hello Julian, Hello Sandy" duet. Douglas Smith's (Charles Armstrong) actor manqué is a ham foil for Williams to berate for Smith's complete lack of acting talent.

The impersonations are impressive and some of the jokes have been rewritten to include references to the modern day (and also I suspect to cut out some of the more crass jokes which were ok in 1964 but are not politically ok forty years later). Robin Sebastian has prima donna Kenneth Williams to a T, down to his flaring nostrils and upturned profile. The audience delighted to the images at the Bona school of cookery from "upside down tart" to "gnocchi and mince". They giggled at Kenneth Williams as folk song aficionado Rumbling Syd Rumpo who collects gems of rural folk song with ridiculous lyrics. There are Mr J Peasmold Gruntfutock's gardening notes and Mills and Boon lovers Charles and Fiona for ever expressing their passion, so expressive yet inexpressible.

I did notice some of the younger generation who had either been dragged along by parents or who were giving their parents a treat night out, but on the whole this show will only be enjoyed by those who remember and cherish the real thing.
Round the Horne . . . Revisited
Written and adapted by Brian Cooke
Directed by Michael Kingsbury

With: Jonathan Rigby, Charles Armstrong, Robin Sebastian, Nigel Harrison, Kate Brown
Designer: Liz Cooke
Lighting Designer: Ton Simpson
Sound and Music: Rod Anderson
Running time: One hour forty minutes with an interval
Box Office: 0870 899 3335
Booking to 1st May 2004.
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 27th January 2004 Performance at the Venus, Leicester Place, London WC2H 2BP(Tube: Leicester Square)
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