The Horne Section

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

While Britain’s more established comedy clubs stick to playing it safe with their programming, there’s an increasing appetite for big nights out with a bit more soul – which is precisely where Alex Horne and his five-piece jazz-funk backing band come in.

The Horne Section started life, as so many good things do, at the Edinburgh Fringe when our charmingly understated host decided ‘for the first time’ to meld the twin art forms of comedy and music into one delicious hybrid. Now it’s moved to London, with a couple of dates at the Soho Theatre and a Christmas bash at the Union Chapel – and you would be hard pressed to find a more fun night out.

Horne’s air of affable underpreparedness and the spontaneous interactions between band and guests create a vibrant sense of unpredictability, while the toe-tapping music adds an uplifting extra element to the loosely structured shenanigans.

The stylishlydressed band are fully integrated into the quirkily playful proceedings, providing everything from funky jingles for interludes such as the eccentric version of Battleships to improvised serenades to audience members; from a Morris-dance version of Beyonce’s Single Ladies to the accompaniment to the conga line that leads the audience out into the bar for the interval.

Tonight’s eclectically curated variety night offers not just a comedy-music crossbread, however, but a multi-headed comedy-music-movement-juggling-poetry-multimedia chimera.

First up, Milton Jones performs as his grandfather, a cardboard box on his head transporting him to various periods of history for typically offbeat, and often groanworthy, wordplay – although the real entertainment comes from the band struggling to find the appropriate incidental music to represent the various eras.

Variety turns come from ‘gentleman juggler’ Matt Ricardo and his cigar boxes, and magician Pete Firman, with his cheesy Cooper-style failed tricks, a bit dated but reliably amusing. Dance-comedy double act New Art Club proved a bigger hit, though, affectionately mocking the pretensions of modern dance, while producing some nicely exaggerated physical comedy of their own.

Finally, Horne’s frequent collaborator Tim Key treats the audience to his exquisitely mundane low-key poetry, all read from the back of pornographic playing cards, while dealing adeptly with a drunk birthday girl in the audience who just couldn't stand not being the centre of attention, rather out of character for this chummy night.

What works so well is each act’s immersion into the world that Horne and his sidemen have created. Both the music and the winningly haphazard presentation put a stamp of distinctiveness on to the evening, which astute guests fully buy into, ensuring a consistent atmosphere and the feeling this is so much more than the sum of its already entertaining parts. This really is a Horne of plenty.

  • The Horne Section returns to the Soho Theatre on November 21, with the Christmas special at the Union Chapel on December 13. More pictures from last night's show are here.

Review date: 15 Nov 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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