Round The Horne Revisited

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By Jeremy Miles

It was one of Britain's finest radio comedies. Irreverent, brilliantly un-PC, hopelessly juvenile and very, very funny.

With a brilliant cast and some of the best writers around, Round The Horne perfectly caught the mood of its time. In half an hour of inspired lunacy it could break taboos, broadcast things that would be unthinkable in the hands of lesser talents and still entertain the nation.

This beautifully crafted stage version, adapted by Brian Cooke - the only surviving writer from the show - rediscovers the spirit of the original.

Set during two recording sessions in the famous Paris Studio in Lower Regent Street, it recreates the genius of the material and the extraordinary talent and rapport of its performers - Kenneth Horne, Hugh Paddick, Kenneth Williams, Betty Marsden and announcer Douglas Smith.

The cast do an extraordinary job, getting the tricky lookalike/soundalike balance spot-on but never forgetting that the real skill is in the delivery. It works a treat.

Stephen Critchlow is uncanny as the authoritative and urbane Horne while Paul Ryan and Jonathan Moore make deceptively easy work of the complex task of becoming Williams and Paddick.

One moment they are those super-camp queens of innuendo, Julian and Sandy, the next ageing ham-actor Binky Huckaback or filthy folk singer Rambling Syd Rumpo. It's impressive stuff.

Sherry Baines as Betty Marsden is superb in a huge variety of female roles switching from strident Aussie Judy Coolibah to first lady of the theatre Dame Celia Molestrangler to celebrity cook Daphne Whitethigh with ease.

Meanwhile Stephen Boswell is excellent as BBC announcer Douglas Smith, who was frequently roped-in to play anything from the odd parrot to a collection of farm animals and, even at one point, a ship.

The best thing about this show though is not only does it look good but, shut your eyes, and you really are transported back nearly 40 years to a very special era in broadcasting history.

Round The Horne Revisited plays The Pavilion until Saturday, September 11.

© Jeremy Miles 2017