Round the Horne: A Blast from the Past by Emma Leigh Hayes

Posted in Blog on by Kat Boon
Round the Horne: A Blast from the Past by Emma Leigh Hayes Appetite Cultural Reporter Emma Leigh Hayes reviews Round the Horne at Victoria Hall.

Oh how bona to varda your dolly old eek!
Some people might know what that says, some might not, but it honestly is a sentence. Way back in the days when your grandparents were the age you are now there used to be a funny show on the radio called Round the Horne. Back then, when homosexuality was against the law, some gay men would use a secret language called 'Polari' to communicate. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the best thing about Round the Horne. It used Polari for its more risqué characters and got away with saying a LOT that would not be appropriate for today’s radio.
Round the Horne was a radio show featuring Kenneth Horne, Kenneth Williams, Hugh Paddick, Betty Marsden and Douglas Smith as crazy characters that could make you laugh. It ran between the years of 1965 to 1968. Back then people used to pull over their cars to listen to the show, and find out what characters such as Julian and Sandy were up to. Featuring the old language of Polari, Round the Horne got away with a LOT of innuendoes, silly jokes and sexual references.
Round the Horne: The 50th Anniversary Tour by Apollo Theatre Company is no different to that golden age of radio. Round the Horne is set up like a radio studio, with the actors on stage acting as those fondly remembered radio voices. They dressed the same, looked the same, and their voices were spot on. You couldn’t have put together a better cast! Speaking to some of the theatregoers in the audience beside me, I found out that Julian Howard as Kenneth Horne sounded exactly like the original, his voice was spot on.
Colin Elmer as Kenneth Williams did an absolutely bona job. He even looked the part, with his slicked hair and timely suit. His mannerisms were spot on and the way he interacted with the cast in that true Williams accent really hit the comedic spot. He bounced off of the other actors and even had his own little ‘drama moments’ just like Kenneth Williams used to have when he didn’t like the way the script was written.
Also worth a standing ovation was the Sound Effects Engineer/Musician, Conrad Segal. He had his own little set up with a piano, gong, and several other items surrounding a microphone that he would then use as sound effects for the sketches in the show. His timing was perfect, especially for jokes that Douglas Smith would do. It really set the scene and feel for the show to have the sound effects engineer on stage and visible, and highlights just how hard it could be when you had to make your own effects rather than pressing a few buttons like today. Bravo!
Overall the show was fantastic, the audience loved it. Unfortunately Stoke-on-Trent was this show’s last stop on a 50th anniversary tour, and  on for one night only. But who knows, maybe the theatre company will rekindle that old bona show and bring it back one day. Take a look at the Apollo Theatre Company website for more information.
Emma Leigh Hayes 
Appetite Cultural Reporter

The Appetite Cultural Reporter Team is a roving group of local writers, photographers and bloggers who are passionate about the arts in Stoke-on-Trent.Cultural Reporters discover and promote exciting stuff happening locally and regionally through reviews, blogs, vlogs, photography, back stage interviews and more. From theatre to circus to spoken word, they get to the heart of the action and bring it to you. Got an event coming up you’d like one of the team to review? Contact us at

Polari key:

Bona: Good/great
Varda: To look
Eek: Face
Riah: Hair
Dolly: Pretty/nice/pleasant
Lallies: Legs
Omi: Man
Palone: Woman
Esong: Nose
Fantabulosa: Wonderful
Feele: Child
Fruit: Queen
Gelt: Money
Glossies: Magazines
Hoofer: Dancer


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