This show is currently touring as the ’50th anniversary tour’ and if it isn’t quite as opulent and high-budget as the version which took up residence in the West End some years ago, it does include a number of spot-on impersonations of the cast of the much-loved radio programme – which you can hear for yourselves in repeats currently running on Radio 4 Extra.
‘Round the Horne’ carried on from where ‘Beyond Our Ken’ left off, and had the deep-voiced Kenneth Horne as the master of ceremonies and participant in a range of songs, skits and characterisations in each half-hour show. Douglas Smith was the announcer, with Hugh Paddick, Betty Marsden and Kenneth Williams as the cast who gave us some memorable characters as Julian and Sandy, Dr Chu En Ginsberg, Seamus Android (a parody of Eamonn Andrews), Rambling Syd Rumpo, Fiona and Charrrrrrles, J Peasemould Gruntfruttock, and more.
Musical interludes included manglings of ‘I Remember It Well’ and ‘Poor Old Father’, while Douglas Smith, when not slipping in adverts for ‘Dobbieroids’ plays a life raft, a volcano, and other inanimate objects. Horne is a spy in ‘The Man With The Golden Thunderball’ and Lord Horseposture in ‘The Admirable Loombucket’. Paddick and Williams give us Shakespeare’s ‘Seven ages of man’ in Polari, and Betty Marsden shares her recipes to cook rhinoceros and yak.
It’s a tribute to the talented cast to say that at many points they do conjure up the actors they are playing. Colin Elmer is especially good as Williams, whether singing about cordwangles or going off piste with the script in mock outrage, while Eve Winters is a glorious Marsden, whether throwing herself into the ‘I know you know’ routine or the ‘Many, many times’ in a shaking Thatcherite voice. You may remember Marsden as Terry Scott’s bossy wife in “Carry On Camping” with the braying laugh.
Alex Scott Fairley is Paddick, Julian Howell McDowell is Horne, and Alan Booty is Smith, and all are excellent. Miles Russell is the sound engineer who provides musical and effects accompaniment, and the cumulative effect is that of a true radio production back in time at the BBC.