Ask anyone who grew up in the 1960s about Sunday lunchtimes and you are bound to be regaled with memories of the aroma of roast chicken and gravy granules wafting from the kitchen, while the weekly instalment of the comedy series Round The Horne drifted across the airwaves on the wireless via the BBC Light Programme.
The unflappable, but occasionally surprised Kenneth Horne would frequently find himself at the centre of the action, from reading out answers to the previous weeks cryptic puzzles to taking part in hilarious movie spoofs. Joining Kenneth Horne in the mayhem would be Kenneth Williams, Hugh Paddick, Betty Marsden and announcer Douglas Smith assisting with a cavalcade of characters including Rambling Sid Rumpo, Charles and Fiona, and J. Peasemold Gruntfuttock, all created by comic genius scriptwriters, Barry Took and Marty Feldman.
Apollo Theatre Company’s stage presentation adapted from Took and Feldman’s original scripts by Tim Astley, brought the bona merriment of a live Round the Horne recording to the Cardiff New Theatre stage on Tuesday evening.
Set on a stage draped with a red curtain, microphones and a BBC sound effects booth, the atmosphere of the BBC’s legendary Paris Studios was recreated as Colin Elmer and Eve Winters took to the stage as Kenneth Williams and Betty Marsden to recreate a comical spoof on Frankenstein. Over two hours of fun followed, punctuated with cheers and applause from an appreciative audience.
Julian Howard McDowell is immediately identifiable with Kenneth Horne’s urbane, calm and tolerant persona, looking and very much sounding like the original.
Alex Scott Fairley as Hugh Paddick not only brings wooden TV presenter Shamus Android to life but teams up with Colin Elmer’s Kenneth Williams to recreate the iconic kings of camp, Julian and Sandy in several bona sketches from undercover agents to potential election candidates.
Eve Winters dazzles in a variety of roles as Betty Marsden from femme fatale spies to hoarse-voiced TV Cook, Daphne Whitethigh demonstrating such delicacies as cooked Rhinoceros and Baboon in the Hole.
Colin Elmer really draws the persona of Kenneth Williams into the production. Be it bursts of Williams own dramatic characteristics, or in character as the curmudgeonly Gruntfuttock or the rural singing sensation, Rambling Syd Rumpo who has cast and audience alike singing along to Green Grow My Nadgers Oh!, Elmer is a glorious homage to the original.
With sterling support from Tom Capper as troubled announcer Douglas Smith and some wonderful musical interludes and sound effects from Java Jive aka Rachel Davies and Anthony Goode (including a beautiful rendition of I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter) this bona stage presentation of Round The Horne is nothing short of Fantabulosa!