Monday, April 04, 2011

Round the Horne and into the stratosphere

Bit of a review-type post.

Last week we saw the last in the run of the Horne Section at the Lyric on Shaftesbury Avenue. We enjoyed ourselves so much at the first one that we wanted to go again, and this time, the line-up was too good to miss.

We got to see that dangerous idiot Tim Key once more, with a couple of different poems this time (including one about a milkmaid crapping in a cemetery. Lovely). He also did a duet/lousy dance routine with Alex Horne on How do you like your eggs in the morning? and a loungey version of the Leningrad song that he closed with last time around. There was also some plate spinning (strangely mesmeric) and some outstanding beatboxing from a guy called Shlomo.

Two other acts appeared. Tom Basden was first on after the interval, and I wasn’t prepared for how sweet he was (or indeed, how handsome). He did a couple of fun, light little songs. I am officially a fan. The main event of the evening was Harry Hill, though. I haven’t seen him live since 1992, at a comedy night at university. He was unlike anyone else I’d ever seen do stand up. He did a routine of non-sequiteurs and running gags, jokes that meandered about going nowhere that made sense about half an hour after the set had finished…he was great.

He opened his set with a Smiths classic, which segued into Ernie by Benny Hill – a near perfect marriage of both style and tone of songs. Again, the running gags were in evidence (*holds mike cable up to front row audience member* “Go on, Jaws! Bite the cable! Put us out of our misery!”). The set was a blur, all I can really remember is being bent double with laughter, the tears rolling down my face. He ended the set by doing a number on his ukulele. It was a fantastic end to the evening, and indeed the run.

On Friday night we went to see Will Gregory’s new opera Piccard in Space. We saw bits of this debuted last year. It's about a physicist who goes to the stratosphere in a balloon (true story). It suffered a bit of a mauling from some critics on the Friday morning, but I avoided the reviews and went along with relatively low expectations.

It wasn’t all brilliant - it had patchy moments - but on the whole it was fun, endearingly daft, with lovely orchestration and some engaging turns from the leads. Put it this way, at £15 a ticket you can’t really go wrong, and the Queen Elizabeth Hall is a supremely comfortable and well-appointed venue. As our companion Mr Herriett pointed out – how on earth do you break even with a production like that, when you have to pay a full concert orchestra, conductor, choir and six leads? It’s surely impossible. But of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Why should the pursuit of art be about the pursuit of money?

I salute Will Gregory for having the brass neck to try it, and to the Southbank Centre for bothering to put the show on in the first place. We are extremely lucky to have such an establishment in this country, and we should make the very best use of it before our esteemed government decide to pick it to bits.

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