Friday, October 21, 2016

'Round the Horne' by Barry Took and Marty Feldman, compiled and directed by Tim Astley

21 October 2016

When Tim Astley was twelve years old his grandfather was taken into a hospice for end-of-life care. In order to relieve the boredom Tim’s grandmother bought her husband a selection of BBC audio cassettes which Tim listened to with his grandfather. After his grandfather passed away Tim inherited the tapes and became an avid fan and collector of classic BBC comedies. Now, aged 25 and running a small touring theatre company, Tim Astley decided to mark the 50th anniversary of ‘Round the Horne’ by bringing the show to the stage. Astley cherry-picked sketches from the scripts by Barry Took and Marty Feldman, to create two 45-minute episodes. On Thursday we were at the Stantonbury Theatre in Milton Keynes to see these performed by the Apollo Theatre Company. A cast of actors played Kenneth Horne, Kenneth Williams, Hugh Paddick, Betty Marsden and Douglas Smith performing the show as it would have appeared to the original studio audience at the BBC Paris Studio. They stopped making ‘Round the Horne’ before I was born but, like Tim, I was familiar, from repeats and recordings, of the show and its cast of regular characters including Rambling Syd Rumpo and Julian & Sandy. It was great to see the show performed as a faithful recreation of the original – resisting the temptation to add contemporary references to Brexit or Donald Trump. We simply saw the actors gathered around microphones, holding their scripts, with live music and sound effects supplied by Conrad Segal. It was excellently done, with some great radio voices on display. Best of all was Julian Howard McDowell as Kenneth Horne, demonstrating that, amongst the silliness and histrionics, the funniest part of ‘Round the Horne’ was often the calm, completely deadpan delivery of its long-suffering host.

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