Sunday, September 06, 2009


Ian Fricker Productions
at Colchester Mercury


Covering Frankie Valli [Silence is Golden] one day, and the next to the BBC's Paris Studios [in Lower Regent Street] for Round the Horne. Life for a musician in the 60s was not all Mersey sound. MOR ruled much of the airwaves, and even the Goon Show had its musical interludes.

So it was great to hear live music in Richard Bacon's staged revival of a comedy classic, and the actors will have to forgive me if I enthuse about the musicians first.

"Not the Fraser Hayes Four" perfectly resurrected the close harmony quartet who interrupted the surreal comedy every week. They must
have seemed corny and cheesy even then, and it was wonderful to see them in all their oleaginous glory. I specially enjoyed Paper Moon, with its half-hearted basketball hand gestures.

On stage throughout, for cues and bridges, are the eight piece Horn Blowers, featuring a comedy trombone, inventive percussion and two trumpeters who look as if they've bunked off from their Convent School. At the piano, and guitarist for Rambling Sid, was Duncan Walsh Atkins.

The matinĂ©e idol on Thursday was definitely Robin Sebastian's delicious Kenneth Williams – Chou en Ginsberg, Gruntfuttock, Jules, all given in pitch-perfect hommage, flaring nostrils and all. Equally impressive was Sally Grace's Marsden, a long list of familiar characters including a spot-on Jean Metcalfe. Michael Shaw made the most of the Bill Pertwee roles, though Seamus Android has not aged well, and David Delve was most successful as ageing juvenile Binkie Huckaback and the unnamed character with the ill-fitting false teeth – down in the scripts simply as “Dentures”.

Straight[ish] foils to these grotesques were Jonathan Rigby as Horne, “bald head and deep, fruity voice”, and a brilliant Stephen Boswell as the archetypal announcer Douglas Smith.

Given that the music was live, I was surprised that the sound effects were all recorded. And, while we're on the SFX script, the pips in the Sixties were all the same length: one tenth of a second ...

Here's the original of one of the sketches they revived:

and here's the original Horn Blowers playing the show out

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