Worthing-based actor Julian Howard McDowell takes on the role of Kenneth Horne as Apollo Theatre Company bring their 50th-anniversary touring re-creation of Round the Horne to Sussex.
With original scripts by Barry Took and Marty Feldman and compiled and directed by Tim Astley, the show is on at The Barn Theatre, Southwick on October 4 and 5 and The Hippodrome, Eastbourne on November 5 and 6.
From 1965-1968 there wasn’t a bigger radio programme in Britain than the ground-breaking Round the Horne. For half an hour every Sunday afternoon, audiences of up to 15 million people would gather around the wireless to listen to Kenneth Horne and his merry crew get up to all sorts of mischief.
With its infamous movie spoofs and regular characters such as Rambling Sid Rumpo, Charles and Fiona, J Peasemold Gruntfuttock and Julian and Sandy, Round the Horne was one of the biggest and best radio comedy shows of all time – and still endures today, 50 years on, as the production sets out to prove.
“This is my first time with Apollo Theatre Company,” Julian says, “but this is our third time with the show, and we have got a fourth outing booked for 2017. We have used the script that was written by Barry Took and Marty Feldman, which was the first three series.”
Kenneth Horne was in effect the straight man in the piece: “Everything revolves around him on stage, and I have no doubt that it was his delivery, his baffled bemusement on stage that made it all work so well. Actually, there is quite a link with Kenneth Horne to the south coast. He had a heart attack in his 40s, and as part of his recuperation, he took a flat down at Hove to relax.
“In our first tour we did two roughly-one-hour compilation episodes which we then repeated for the London run. We have now got a new compilation this time. We do it exactly the same way as it was done in the studios. The actors are on stage and step up to the microphone, and the actors are dressed in period costume.”
As for its enduring success: “It is hard to say why comedy works. The writing is particularly slick, and it is a very silly sense of humour which fitted the times. It was a time when people enjoyed going out and really enjoyed different things. But radio was still ahead of TV in terms of entertainment, and it was just something that the whole family looked forward to.
“Julian and Sandy were a bit near the knuckle, and a lot of people have questioned how on earth they got away with it. But people had been through the war. There was a lot of saucy humour, and sometimes people were laughing because they liked the sound of the words, maybe not really because they understood what was being said. But there was a lot of innuendo-based humour. People had been through the war… It was quite risqué and it captured the imagination, and I think it was a forerunner when it came to things like Monty Python and The Goodies. There was a lot of that very silly, childish humour that people liked.”
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