Writers: The Horne Section
Reviewer: Simon Topping
The Horne Section bring their mirthful mix of comedy, cabaret and music to the Theatre Royal, in a chaotic and charming show, worthy of the celebration and cheer it receives from a receptive Brighton audience.
Alex Horne is best known as the creator and co-host of Dave’s hit comedy show, Taskmaster, where comedian and actor Greg Davies, in the title role, and Horne, as his ever-patient assistant, issue simple, comedic and bizarre tasks to five regular contestants.
The production, originally dreamt up by Horne as a live show for Edinburgh festival in 2010, has been a massive success, which has recently seen its acquisition by Channel 4 for its 2020 run as a result.
In this live show, Horne brings out his band, The Section, for a good time. The group have hosted irreverent comedy game show 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown and Nevermind the Buzzcocks and tonight they transfer much of the exuberant silliness they have displayed on television into the theatre.
The night starts off with Horne giving the drummer some things to do in the “soundcheck”. The duties including thumping himself round the head while hitting the bass drum in unison; it’s classic Taskmaster style hectoring.
Much of the first half is spent slowly introducing the band with funny one-word hellos and songs created by each member including a sing-along about varieties of sticky tape, the love of dogs and a highly delightful and ridiculous ditty from Henry Hoover, which is reminiscent of the late great surrealist, Frank Sidebottom. Not everything hits the mark but it is consistently funny and while Horne is not strictly a singer, he is a commanding and charismatic frontman.
When the band members get their turn to shine it is obvious they can really play. The two-man horn section are particularly fine musicians; they rip up allotted solos with relish, to the great delight of the crowd.
The interval brings 22 minutes and 5 seconds of Ace’s 1970s classic How Long Has This Been Going on looped particularly in the vocal sections; broadcast like a CIA siege-breaking weapon. Two or three lost souls, who have not taken refreshments and remain in the auditorium in the Upper Circle, contemplate jumping to their impending doom but are held back by loving partners and friends. In the distance, from the safety of the green room, muffled, yet guilty, laughter emanates.
The second half carries on much as the first, with witty reworkings of well-known songs and plenty of impish behaviour from Horne. The Christmas choral song sung by the band is a highlight; like a modern version of a skit you might have seen in the seminal Beyond the Fringe show of the 1960s.
Horne’s crowd work is first-rate and the gathering get plenty of opportunity to see it as the night continues. Two audience members are called onto stage to complete a Taskmaster style task; what follows is glowingly absurd curated chaos. The Pea song directly after the contest delights with its wonderfully childish play on words. People are crying with laughter in the room. Horne’s beatbox section has a similar effect on the crowd as some audience members struggling to breathe through the giggles.
The evening culminates with a jaunty zumba number, something which no one expected. The Horne Section get the whole audience dancing and loving it.
It is obvious the majority of the room are aware of Horne’s work and the inside jokes are all the sweeter for it. However, the couple sat next to this reviewer have no real clue what to expect and have taken a step, in blind faith, to come and watch. They, like all of us, are not disappointed. What we get is a humorous display of total silliness and finely tuned shambolic frivolity; a complete antidote to current affairs and general election woes. It’s just the ticket!
Reviewed on 4 December 2019 | Image: Contributed