Mincing its way nostalgically to the Cambridge Arts Theatre and beginning its week long run Monday night was the stage adaptation of the hit 60's radio show, ROUND THE HORNE (RTH).
This West End hit is based on the radio scripts by Barry Took, Marty Feldman, Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke. The show also includes new and faithfully updated material by Cooke, the last remaining original writer from the show.
Those who dare to admit being old enough to remember listening back then will be thrilled to know that the stage production is essentially the 'best of' those impish sketches from the original 66 radio shows.
Julian and Sandy, amongst the more pioneering characters to emerge from RTH and arguably the first gays in the village to dare venture out of the BBC closet, set the tone of innuendo early on in proceedings. Other much loved favourites such as J Peasmold Gruntfuttock, Rambling Syd Rumpo and Charles and Fiona were all authentically revived by a cast more than capable of doing justice to the material.
The set, a 60's BBC studio complete with 'Recording', 'Off Air' and 'Applause' signs, tempts one to close their eyes and enjoy the saucy word play and raucous songs as radio audiences once did. To do so however, would risk depriving oneself of some very impressive comic performances. Stephen Matthews, as Kenneth Williams, is a particular joy to behold. Like the inimitable Williams, Matthews is capable of holding the audience with the smallest of facial gestures. A long nasal vowel sound and a northerly snoot of the beak never failed to please the house whether it came with a punch line or not.
Felicity Duncan, (Betty Marsden) and David Rumelle, (Hugh Paddick), while filling some pretty big shoes ably showcased their obvious talents through the many oddball character recreations. In fact, full credit must be given to the entire cast for their impeccable comic timing and delivery from start to finish.
At its peak on BBC radio, the show regularly delighted audiences of up to 15 million listeners of a Sunday lunchtime, with the odd exception. Considered somewhat risqué for its time, the likes of Mary Whitehouse and a few other moral bastions of decency were none too amused. In response to one such terse critic of the day who claimed that emphasis was being given to certain words in the script, Barry Took replied; 'Isn't that the very definition of acting?'
If you feel your moral fibre is capable of withstanding the experience RTH will be at The Arts Theatre until Saturday 11th June.
This performance of Round The Horne...Revisited played at Cambridge Arts Theatre on Thursday, 9th June 2005.
Article by: Ian Bedford