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September 2005
Carry On Camping!
round the horne revisited 2
The cast in full flow!
Any show featuring Rambling Syd Rumpo, the folk singer whose songs sound like the rudest thing you've EVER heard, is guaranteed to raise a laugh - and Round The Horne Revisited 2 at the Alhambra does just that. It's a camp classic, writes MARTIN COLDRICK!

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Based on the famous BBC Radio comedy featuring the legendary Kenneth Williams (of Carry On fame), Round The Horne Revisited 2 is actually a production-within-a-production, set as it is in the BBC's London studios sometime between 1965 and 1968. The Bradford Alhambra audience is transported back in time to take part in two live 'broadcasts' of Round The Horne. Complete with old-fashioned microphones and a brown-overalled sound effects man hovering in the background, the show recreates to the very last detail the atmosphere of the programme - complete with some comedy moments which can now be seen as quietly revolutionary, and which certainly set the standard for future funnies!

Originals: Williams (note the flared nostrils!), Horne and Marsden

Revolving around our genial host, Kenneth Horne (Stephen Critchlow), we see two complete half-hour programmes featuring some of the best moments from the show's four seasons on the BBC's Light Programme (better known to you and me as Radio 2). This means we get to see in full colour - well, sepia - some brilliant comedy creations brought back to life. Once you get over the fact you're watching actors playing actors/comedians who are themselves playing their allotted characters then you can sit back, relax and enjoy an evocative evening of entertainment which takes you back to what some would have us believe were kinder, gentler times.

The cast recreate their characters amazingly well and with bubbling energy - if you've ever heard the programmes before (currently being aired on BBC7, comedy fans!) you'll find it hard to spot the difference. Everything is spot-on: the urbane Horne, keeping everything under 'control' as madness reigns around him is marvellously portrayed by Critchlow, who has the host's dulcet tones down to a 't'; Robin Sebastian as Kenneth Williams is superb, complete with flaring nostrils and mad laugh plus just the right level of camp (ie swathes of the stuff); Julia Webber as Betty Marsden, pink-clad and incredibly versatile - taking on any number of roles she hits the spot every time, from a five-year-old girl stuck in a lift to an ancient old woman with bandy legs; David Rumelle as Hugh Paddick (even more campery, put simply!); and Charles Armstrong as straight-laced BBC presenter Douglas Smith.

round the horne revisited 2 cast
Robin Sebastian as Kenneth Williams and David Rumelle as Hugh Paddick

Though characters like the aforementioned folkie Rambling Syd Rumpo ("I'll jump jackginger and whirdle Jill Crow, tit-willow her nadgers for tuppence a throw"), Dame Celia Molestrangler and J Peasmold Gruntfuttock, I'll admit that the high points for me were when 'Kenneth Williams' was in full flow - especially when he was in tandem with 'Hugh Paddick' as the ultra-camp Julian and Sandy. These appearances on Round The Horne Revisited 2 capture the madness of the seemingly-nonsensical chats between the real Williams and Paddick and Kenneth Horne.

I still wonder how much this duo's spots on Round The Horne actually made much sense to the show's audience - especially as they don't REALLY 'make sense' even now if you're not a connoisseur of polari (gay slang). Remember, this was was a time when homosexuality was still particularly frowned-upon and when people could go to prison for being gay. Nevertheless, in the middle of live broadcasts from an ultra-conservative BBC still fresh from its presenters wearing bow ties to read the news, here were two mincing characters live on the radio chucking in gay slang like it was the, ahem, Queen's English. That, it has to be said, was pretty revolutionary in its own way - and one in the eye not only for the BBC but for the show's audience! And yet they laughed then, and WE laugh now (though perhaps more knowingly) because it's just FUNNY! You can't ask for more than that...Add to this the other members of an incredibly skillful cast, and you've got a camp classic on your hands.

original  cast of round the horne
The original cast in action

If you've never heard Round The Horne before, and still aren't convinced that a show within a show about an 'ancient' radio programme can really be that funny, then think of it this way: it was a Little Britain or Catherine Tate Show for the steam-radio generation. Just like those ratings-topping TV hits, Round The Horne (and its recreation at the Alhambra) is packed full of catchphrases and regular characters who you come to love and who you look forward to with anticipation. And remember, though those TV comedies can draw in big audiences, Round The Horne was regularly attracting more than 15 million listeners!

As Round The Horne Revisited 2 at the Alhambra reveals, the show was ahead of its time - linking old-style BBC comedies with upcoming bright young things such as Monty Python. And the radio show is recreated with such obvious affection for the characters (both the real actors and the characters they play) that you end up with that cliché of cliché: a lovely warm glow inside.

Perhaps the greatest compliment that I can pay to the cast and this production of Round The Horne Revisited 2 is that when I walked out of the Alhambra it took a moment to remember this was a pleasant late Summer evening in 2005 rather than 1965, and it almost left me with a yearning to be back in those (allegedly) more innocent days when you could hear classic comedy like this on the 'wireless' every day of the week...

Round The Horne Revisited 2 continues at the Alhambra in Bradford until
Saturday 10th September, 2005
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