Having enjoyed The Horne Section last year, I looked forward to this must see event of the festival with great anticipation. Alex Horn has gathered some great mates around him who happen to be very talented jazz musicians for a late night, big old fashioned, British musical comedy knees up. It is very much of the old music hall tradition and every performance is a bit of a surprise because it depends on the guests appearing and what games come up on the big spinning Wheel of Wonder.
This year Alex and his band have found a much better venue, the bright and sparkly Spiegeltent which is perfect for a musical variety hour, rather than the dark & sticky carpeted Hifi Bar that seemed to dampen the merry atmosphere in 2011. The audience is a middle aged crowd who are revved up and ready for fun, which is just as well, because they take a big part in the evening’s entertainment.
Popping in each night are the special guests who are usually headlining comedians from the festival and they are given the chance to do pretty much what they like with the band. This has seen some truly magical moments in the past as some comedians live out rock star fantasies or turn their comedy into musical jazz poetry. Tonight we had one of those magical experiences when Des Bishop asked for a back-up singer from the audience who happened to be very talented and then performed a searing satirical hip hop rap in the style of Eminem while the band kept up.
Unfortunately there are always those guest comedians who don’t (or can’t?) join in on the musical comedy fun and just manage to do their usual stand-up with a bit of musical accompaniment. Wil Anderson seemed a bit worse for wear when he wandered up the aisle and onto the stage. There was some excitement in the audience around me with the appearance of this superstar of comedy. His routine was excellent, but it was a pity that he was not up to working with the band, which he had to eventually ask to stop because it was taking him out of his rhythm comfort zone.
In between the guest acts, the entertainment is chosen by spinning the Wheel of Wonder. On our night we played Connect 4 using the audience, Alex performed some stunning mimed beatboxing, as well as a disappointing magic trick and the band performed an impressively funny tribute to Australian music.
All the while Alex is the consummate Ring Master, conducting the band, supervising the audience and maintaining the jazzy vibe. He and the band have been working closely for so long now that they bounce off each other effortlessly and have a working shorthand that belies their seeming dictator / minion relationship.
It’s such a pity that this is on so late in the evening because it is a show I would recommend to anyone. Still the late hour adds to the bohemian, anything can happen atmosphere. If you are not keen on audience participation you might want a seat up the back, but I recommend you go with a sense of fun and ready to join in with the party, and you will have a ball.
The Horne Section is on at The Famous Spiegeltent in front of The Arts Centre
Keep an eye on the website for upcoming guests