Written by Barry Took & Marty Feldman
Directed by Tim Astley
And now it’s time for Round The Horne. Recrafted for the stage by director Tim Astley, the revived production follows the original programme of Barry Took & Marty Feldman, a loving recreation of the inspirational and revolutionary satirical radio show. Provisionally a two-act structure, the production stages two sittings of the radio play – and outside of the continuation of jokes and gags is less a follow-through continuation of time.
This evening, Horne & Douglas Smith has substituted themselves with Darren Street and Nick Wymer taking over from the regular leads. But you’d never notice. Close your eyes – and it’s extraordinary. Rarely does a medium replicate another so well, but the Apollo Theatre Company achieves brilliance in spades. Street makes for a smooth, classy Horne – a regular dab-hand, while Wymer brings the bouncing and cheerful Smith back to the forefront of the cast.
But don’t keep those eyes closed for too long – as the simplistic but effective setting of a BBC curtain and three large mic stages does all it needs to build immersion. Round the Horne finds audiences revisiting their much-missed favourites of Rambling Syd Rump, Charles & Fiona and the ever outrageous, delectable, and pioneering Julian & Sandy. In an era where homosexuality was still illegal in the UK, it’s forgotten how pivotal the reoccurring appearance the pair Julian & Sandy had on everyday life.
Education in the artistry of satire and comedy, Round the Horne possesses an insatiable appetite for an era of British comedy which is all but dissipated. And gazing at the audiences around, one may feel a double-edged pang – appreciating the connection with their past, a reconnection to a timeless and institutional part of their cultural upbringing. But also, so much richness lost, particularly the brilliant use of the Polari language – the created language of Romance, Romani, Slang and utilised by so many who found themselves under the eyes and thumbs of the establishment.
As satire evolves, a reconnection with the course is necessary. Keenly utilised by the reincarnation of Kenneth Williams who is Colin Elmer, and frequently impressive co-performers Alex Scott Fairley and Eve Winters, the three take to the stage and have an absolute grasp of the crowd – and rather than playing to them, draw the audience naturally into the atmosphere.
An additional measure of enjoyment is served at the dynamic hands of Java Jive (Rachel Davies & Anthony Coote), who fill the shoes and musical interludes of the Fraser Hayes Four – the original harmonic group. Providing side-stage foley, and a magnificent counter-melody to the on-stage antics and hilarity. Offering a tribute to the radio technicians and sound designers who led the way for most of the tricks of the trade still utilised to this very day.
Often the endeavour to re-live the past falls flat and fails to capture the magic of what once was. Apollo Theatre has strived and succeeded in bottling nostalgia – while rippling just enough to speak with their familiar and fresh audiences. To get to grips with the under roots of comedy, and the evolution it has taken from the tea-spitting Mary Whitehouse days to the current Dorries dumbfounded disbelief. Round the Horne’s revival is a reminder of the art of satirical comedy, and the talent of subversion of expectations, turning men in suits, the power holders into a controlled form of chaos.
Apollo Theatre Company are a professional Theatre group from Guilford, Surrey. The production is currently touring, with dates and information available here.