Justin Edwards

Justin Edwards

Rum Bunch

Note: This review is from 2017

Radio review by Steve Bennett

Rum Bunch is an unashamedly old-fashioned slice of gang-show radio comedy. 

Strike that, it’s not just unashamed of its old-fashioned roots, but positively proud of them. The typically jaunty opening song describes as a ‘cockamamie, incoherent, childish cabaret’ – and that seems as good a summary as anything.

The show has been likened to enduring 1960s favourite Round The Horne, but while Justin Edwards initially has the air of the unflappable, urbane frontman around which the madness dances, it’s soon clear he’s not quite like the straight-laced Kenneth Horne.

Not least because he’s as idiotic as the rest. Tasked with writing a play about Houdini, he skips the research to assume she was an Italian woman, the daughter of Spaghetti and Fiat Houdini, a pair of cowardly tomato farmers. That’s the level of foolishness that typifies the script.

Mel Giedroyc is more like the straightwoman, though she has her own problems, harbouring a beef against guest star Rebecca Front over an episode of Celebrity Supermarket Sweep they once both appeared in.

Meanwhile there’s dim, poor Baldrick-like sidekick – a staple of any such show like this – in the guise of Dave Mounfield, still doing his unpaid internship. Mounfield’s got form as the hapless sidekick, having played long-suffering Geoffrey in Count Arthur Strong’s Radio Show, and he’s as endearing as he is dumb.

There’s also a house band comprising Jason Hazeley, co-writer of the revived Ladybird books for adults – and David Reed of The Penny Dreadfuls.

This opening episode takes place, quite aptly, at an end-of-the-pier theatre and the audience get into the spirit of things, cheering the name of the town, World’s-End-On-Sea, and groaning at convoluted puns.

But the tone is slightly restrained, not quite capturing the freewheeling madness of the anarchic old shows that inspired it (I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again is probably a bigger influence than Round The Horne). 

However this is only episode one, and even the best of the genre needs time to develop in-jokes and a knockabout dynamic. And even without quite nailing that spirit, Rum Bunch’s daft, light-hearted aesthetic is a refreshing alternative in a comedy landscape full of polemists and dramatic personal storytelling.

• Rum Bunch is on Radio 4 at 6.30pm tonight.

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Published: 3 May 2017

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Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2004

Ealing Live!

Edinburgh Fringe 2009

Odd Half Hour

Edinburgh Fringe 2010

Jeremy Lion Goes Green


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