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BWW Review: ROUND THE HORNE, Museum of Comedy, February 12 2016

Fifty years on from its debut, the celebrated radio show, Round The Horne, is brought back to life at the Museum of Comedy (until 12 March). Though writers (Barry Took and Marty Feldman) and performers are all long gone, their influence is everywhere in British comedy - from Monty Python to Eddie Izzard to Viz's Finbarr Saunders.

But, notoriously, when comedy is explained or categorised, its very essence can float away taking the joy with it - so does this happen with our show? No. With Tim Astley adapting original scripts, the laughs are as fresh today as in 1966. Well, almost - some references - to the Cold War for example - are a little dated and some of the scenes need a little contextualising to feel the full force of their transgression (especially Julian and Sandy who speak the underground gay slang, polari, and as barristers dedicate much of their time to their criminal practice - geddit?). There's a very informative programme to help locate the world of 1966 and the show's characters within it.

The actors have a lot of fun - and so they should as the actors they are playing did too! Nick Wymer speaks in a voice that jolts you back to the days when every announcer on the BBC spoke with a perfect Received Pronunciation accent - though they didn't shill horse products like he does! Eve Winters alternates between a raucous Barbara Windsor cackle and a deep Margaret Thatcher boom in her skits - some inevitably based on Brief Encounter and James Bond's early outings.

Julian Howard McDowell deadpans as ringmaster Kenneth Horne, getting more laughs than an ostensible straight-man should, but they are very well earned. He does his best, but he can't quite control Jonathan Hansler as Hugh Paddick and Colin Elmer as the great Kenneth Williams. Elmer, in particular, is wonderfully accurate and affectionate, often at his best reacting to performers from his seat off-mic, the barbs and the facial expressions uncannily reminiscent of the great man. It's Elmer's second time playing Williams and I suspect it won't be his last.

Of course, it helps if you like double entendres, dodgy puns and "The Sixties", but they are not requirements for enjoying this warm tribute to a much-loved and not forgotten show. Humour is located in its time and culture, but funny is funny wherever and whenever..


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