Sunday 25th September

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Alex Horne: “Mixing music and comedy was more fun than we were having individually, so we just carried on.”

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Alex Horne’s an unusual entertainer.  Unusual in his preference for somewhat unfashionable but quirkily effective pun-heavy material.  Unusual in drifting from stand-up in the face of consistently strong reviews.  And unusual in his current ability to get programme commissioners to climb over each other to turn his latest ideas into TV gold.

The band he formed eight years ago with two former school friends – The Horne Section – is one such success.  You might have seen them on various comedy panel shows (such as when they hosted Never Mind the Buzzcocks) or heard some of their three acclaimed Radio 4 series.  If not, the premise seems relatively simple but is extremely hard to get right.  The self-styled “mischievous melody makers” perform offbeat comedy songs without any set style, other than a penchant for wordplay and whimsy.  These samples from an episode of 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown demonstrates this neatly, veering from hints of Flight of the Conchords in Seasons, to Vic and Bob in Lovely Day, and finally Chas & Dave in Chris Hoy Loves a Saveloy.

This show of variety helped The Horne Section gain a strong following, prompting a UK tour beginning this month.  It starts at the ideally-suited cabaret bar at Soho Theatre tomorrow, a venue they return to twice monthly up until December.  Given the band enjoy improvising with special guests, part of the thrill lies in the unexpected – not least on the opening night when Horne’s long-term collaborator, the unpredictable Tim Key, will team up with them.

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Category: Comedy
Cabaret Banner

Breaking 30: Halloween Cabaret – Review

Rating:

Breaking 30 / Worlds End Studios

A surprise on arrival: the venue was a covered courtyard with heat-lamps – and all the better for it. In fact, the perfect way to spend an otherwise dreary autumnal London evening. There was quite a crowd gathering and a real buzz to proceedings. It was truly heartening to see such a level of support for this fundraiser, under the clearly imaginative direction of Sophie Moniram.

‘With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm’ made for a rousing chorus taking full vantage of prime performance space, faces underlit by torchlight. Coupled with the artful lighting of Justin Williams, the place afforded ameniable acoustics for consistently consumate performances. Pretty soon though, things were thrown into crisis: that of a rotund seasonal vegetable, in a not-quite-so-Juliet-ish balcony scene. No pumpkin had more stage presence or was more dramatically expressive, in this endearing ugly-duckling yarn.

Tanja Mariadoss

Being carved-up every October 31 presents a conflict of emotions.

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Category: Comedy
Rocks

The Jack Studio Theatre: Rocks & Hard Places

Rating:

Breaking 30

It’s always worthwhile taking a few stops on the Overground from Canada Water. Just a short and pleasant walk and you’re at the Jack Studio Theatre in Brockley. This terrific fringe venue sits adjacent a smashing pub that will be even better following refurbishment. For now, we have a Pop-Up Bar and the background tinkling of ivories. Excellent!

‘Rocks and Hard Places’ is a cabaret-ish two-hander of non linking ballads and dialogues. It kicks-off with the nervy ‘Blizzard of Lies’. An alternative title could easily be ‘He Done Her Wrong’ whilst an original Dietrich song proves a highlight of the night. Are you getting the picture…?

Lights go-up on a switchboard operator – no gender-stereotype on my behalf – who turns-table on her berated caller. It’s funny, ghastly, in-your-face hysterical. ‘Busy Line’ is just one of a consistently cracking choice of witty ditties. Great to hear the expert delivery of each tune with faultless projection and enunciation. Programme notes nod to Colin Sell no less. Alex James Ellison provides sympathetic musical accompaniment although greater interaction, cranking-up the machismo, would be amusing.

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Category: Comedy