Alex Horne: When In Rome
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2005
Following the success of his previous two innovative and semi-educational solo festival shows, Alex Horne this year takes on one of light entertainment's final taboos Latin.
For the latest of his typically inventive high-concept shows, Alex Horne has decided that he wants to help stem the decline in Latin use in Britain.
To that end, he’s written an ambitious, if endearingly cheesy, computer adventure game to try to build upon the audience’s existing knowledge of the language, be it basic, middling or ‘Superpope’ - as decided by a brief exam, handed out on the door.
As in his brilliant previous years, the show is heavily dependent on the audience entering into the right spirit of things; the seriousness of purpose (Horne’s even holding genuine Latin lessons during the Fringe) juxtaposed with the utter triviality with which he sets out to achieve it.
Certain more lairy members of this Friday-night audience didn’t quite seem to appreciate this; including the female ‘team captain’ who seemed more interested in spotting chavs on the slides than the idea of the game, and an attention-seeking man front-row, centre (where else?)
You get odd audiences everywhere, but this one seemed to upset the delicate balance of the show – despite the strange and original put-downs that are stored in sub-routines of the computer program that so dominates his show.
Horne has been one of the more successful comedians at combining the now-ubiquitous laptop technology with stand-up, using the computer’s ability to realise his imagination rather than being distracted by it. This year, the balance is a little off, with the pointless complexities of the game becoming too much the focus of activities - rather than his passion for Latin.
There is still plenty of fun to be had, mind, with silly asides, some mightily impressive puns and irresistible, occasionally raucous, audience participation. Horne himself maintains a suitably schoolmasterish control over proceedings, while his sidekick, Tim Key, has many of the best moments as the shy geek occasionally venturing out from behind the computer keyboard for some moments of awkward human interaction.
But when he has set the bar so high for himself, and other comedians, in previous years you can’t help but be slightly disappointed with a show that – while still undoubtedly entertaining, funny and most of all original - falls short of that gold standard.