Review: I FOUND MY HORN, Riverside Studios

A heartwarming new revival

By: Jun. 01, 2023
Review: I FOUND MY HORN, Riverside Studios

Review: I FOUND MY HORN, Riverside Studios Do you ever wish you’d not given up playing a musical instrument? Well, you’re not alone, as over half of us stop learning how to play an instrument all too quickly and easily.

In a new revival of I Found My Horn at west London’s Riverside Studios – co-written by Jonathan Guy Lewis and Jasper Rees, both lapsed horn players ­­– the audience is provided with ample reasons to think about taking up that violin, double bass or even fiendishly tricky French horn again.

In a funny, poignant and uplifting one-man show, we follow the travails of newly divorced and angst-ridden Jasper (played by highly versatile and indefatigable Jonathan Guy Lewis), who rediscovers the joy of music when he dusts off his French horn after 22 years laying idle in its battered case.

The play is based on Rees’s 2008 autobiographical book, I Found My Horn: One Man’s Struggle with the Orchestra’s Most Difficult Instrument. The storyline’s been updated since the play’s initial staging the same year at the Aldeburgh Festival, followed by runs in the West End, New York and Los Angeles.

I suspect there are very few Equity card holders out there who can not only play all 10 roles, but also perform a Mozart concerto – third horn concerto in E flat major, Kochel 447, since you ask – rather splendidly.

Jonathan Guy Lewis is a total star here, pulling off a masterful but also nuanced piece of stagecraft, with the aid of a gem of a script.

He morphs easily from character to character. From Jasper’s monosyllabic teenage son, Daniel; Mr Cartledge (known as old Ligament), head of the school orchestra; Yorkshireman Dave, head of the British Horn Society; bombastic Sir Humphrey Crutwell; sexy Kelly-Ann from Georgia, and terrifying Herman Baumann, the greatest German horn player since the war. And many more.

But in the end, the one we root for is Jasper. Will he improve enough to play K 447 in public without humiliating himself? Will he patch things up with his son? Will his midlife crisis ever end?

There’s ample help for Jasper and others played by Jonathan, with seamless direction by Harry Burton, and a jumbled attic set (compliments of designer Alex Marker) that takes us to a number of other places in our imaginations. Anything from a practise space for a school orchestra, headquarters of the British Horn Society (mistakenly called the British Porn Society by a flustered Jasper) to a Horn Camp in the Adirondacks of New Hampshire.

Lighting designer Chuma Emembolu highlights all of Jonathan’s personas on cue, and stage manager Andrew Room does an admirable job of having all the right props and costumes (there are several quick changes for our solo performer) in the right positions at the right times.

If you fancy a witty and tender 95 minutes with one man on a journey to create beautiful music with his rediscovered horn, then book seats now. This is pure theatre in the raw that strikes all the right notes.

And who knows, you might even decide to take up that long abandoned musical instrument again. Bravo!

I Found My Horn runs at Riverside Studios until June 11.

Photo credit: Harry Burton


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