The Horne Section came to the Nottingham Playhouse on 22nd November, bringing their show Four Great Songs, and Eight More Songs. No doubt, it’s a great title for a show. Unfortunately, it was also rather an accurate one.
There was never going to be a through-line to tie the show together, that’s never been Alex Horne’s style. Even acknowledging this, Four Great Songs felt rather thrown together, with each disparate skit unrelated to what came before it. While comedic chaos is not a curse in itself – it’s what makes Horne’s Dave TV show Taskmaster such a joy – over two hours momentum is regularly lost.
There were some moments that did rise above the rest. One song purported to show off the band’s ability to fit the saxophone solo from Baker Street into any song the audience suggested. A lively audience met the challenge, with ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’ and Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ the most left-field suggestions. This was a perfect opportunity for the Horne Section to show off what got left behind in much of the show, that they are genuinely brilliant musicians, essentially able to play anything demanded of them. The fact that the Baker Street solo sounded dreadful in every song only made the joke funnier.
“At its best it was silly and brilliant”
The highlight of the show was a version of ‘Y.M.C.A.’, with the words repurposed to describe other well-known acronym-named organisation. Half the fun was trying to work out which organisation they were referring to in the verse, before the chorus kicked in. Which charity raises money for the protection and welfare of animals? The R.S.P.C.A. of course. The other half of the fun was watching the iconic dance being adapted to each name. This never claimed to be highbrow humour, but at its best it was silly and brilliant.
There were also moments of invention. Horne is often most comfortable with audience participation, never demonstrated better than getting five audience members to come on stage and do a Conga line. But backwards. While the Horne Section played the Conga music. Backwards. Amusing and messy in equal measure, this audience participation was entirely in the spirit of fun, with no one being made the butt of the joke except the silliness of the joke. At the end of the show, the video was played in reverse, with the Conga now going in its usual direction, although it looked less like a traditional Conga line and more like the alcohol-fuelled final moments of merriment at a wedding reception that was getting slightly out of hand. Like the Baker Street gag, it didn’t quite work, but it was all in the spirit of fun.
“I think it was a moment of sincerity which wasn’t supposed to be funny”
A lot of the show was just rather baffling. There was a song right before the interval, which I think was about leaving the audience wanting more, but I’m not entirely sure. And I think it was a moment of sincerity which wasn’t supposed to be funny, but again it wasn’t entirely clear. Nothing in the show, however, missed the mark quite as much as the ‘special guest’, which was Henry Hoover. Or rather, the trumpeter with a Henry Hoover on his head. The main issue with the whole segment was that, if you have a Henry Hoover on your head, it’s quite difficult to speak clearly into a microphone. For the duration of the 5-10 minute section, pretty much no one in the audience could understand a word ‘Henry’ was saying. Not ideal for a sketch of conversation-based jokes.
I would compare Four Great Songs, and Eight More Songs to a meal at Wetherspoons. While it was happening, it was perfectly pleasant, and the audience and I had a good time. It was not until afterwards that it started to feel increasingly forgettable. This was two hours of entertainment to pass the time, but it most likely won’t live long in the memory
Perhaps a touring show-length is too long for the Horne Section. A tighter hour, which they have shown to excel at for the Edinburgh Fringe, would probably suit them better and allow for less filler. Maybe next time, they could have Four Great Songs, and Four More Songs.
Image courtesy of Nottingham Playhouse and The Horne Section.