Friday, 19 October 2018

Punning linguists come Round again

I SUSPECT many in the audience found it hard to believe it’s been 50 years since

I SUSPECT many in the audience found it hard to believe it’s been 50 years since the start of Round the Horne. There were clearly some devoted fans in who knew what line was coming, so to speak.

This Sixties radio show was successfully translated into a theatre production with costumes, lighting and props giving an atmospheric, retro feel — right down to the old-fashioned stage microphones.

Announcer Douglas Smith (Nick Wymer), Kenneth Horne (Julian Howard McDowell), Kenneth Williams (Colin Elmer), Hugh Paddick (Jonathan Hansler) and Betty Marsden (Eve Winters), not forgetting sound guy Conrad Segal, played their roles with aplomb and enjoyment and each brought a crucial element to this crack team of punning linguists, as the actress said to the bishop.

In this age of song lyrics that are up front and in your face, it was good to find there’s still space for good old innuendo.

The beauty of Round the Horne is that it’s all inferred — a neat trick that means the show has no need to be censored and its lyrical limericks can be enjoyed by all ages.

This obviously helped sidestep Sixties censors, along with the camp cover-up language Polari. Characters Julian and Sandy had the audience hooting with laughter with their “bona” law firm specialising in “criminal practice” (pertinent to society back when homosexuality was illegal).

Personally, the first I knew of Kenneth Williams was in children’s cartoon Willo the Wisp, so his intriguing array of eccentric characters came as no surprise. Colin Elmer was an excellent mimic, really grasping Williams’s unique intonation and successfully layering the different personas on top.

Julian Howard McDowell as Kenneth Horne formed the backbone of the show with deadpan delivery throughout, while Nick Wymer’s announcer Douglas Smith shone with the number Nobody Loves a Fairy When She’s Forty.

Characters packed into this show included J Peasemold Gruntfuttock, Dr Chu En Ginsberg MA (Failed) and Lotus Blossom, twitchy and love-struck Charles and Fiona with their knowing refrain, and the legendary Rambling Syd Rumpo.

This 50th anniversary production was a great tribute to the late greats, writers Barry Took and Marty Feldman, alongside Kenneths Horne and Williams, Hugh Paddick, Betty Marsden, Douglas Smith and Bill Pertwee.

After the show, we sought out the original series on a smartphone and listened to it on the way home — new converts to this timeless piece of entertainment.

Review: Natalie Aldred

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