Edinburgh Festival 2011: The Horne Section

The Horne Section *****

Assembly George Square, Speigeltent. 11pm

If you are “doing the festival”, it can be a bloody long day. Wide-eyed Fringe tourists can find themselves booking shows some distance apart, which leads to their poor, croc-wearing feet clocking up miles at a rate Paula Radcliffe would have been proud of. Laden down by festival merchandise, sweating in their precautionary cagoules as the ironic sunshine beats down on them, several pints the worse for wear… suffice to say, it would need to be a hell of a show for them to stay up past 11 o’clock and not regret it.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present one hell of a show.

The Horne section is a riotous array of carefully rehearsed skits, mixed with improvised/jotted-down-in-the-green-room guest offerings, infused with the ambient glory of a virtuoso full band, then topped off with the incredibly likeable and amusing persona that is Alex Horne. It’s show bursting with energy, excellent special guests and a format which guarantees no two performances will ever be alike.

What’s remarkable about all this is that Alex Horne, our host and mastermind, must be even more tired than the drained holidaymakers I imagined above. He’s putting on no less than three shows, every day, throughout the festival. The man is an entertainment machine.

Horne heads up a motley troupe of childhood friends and session musicians, the excellent band for whom the show is partly named. All the set pieces on display have a musical element, from those put on exclusively by the troupe to those contributed by guest stars. It’s evident from the demeanour of those guests that working with the band is an exciting and different experience: these hardened comedians are all smiles and excitement as they deliver their hastily-created sketches, songs and monologues.

In order to keep things appropriately random and fresh, the nature of the troupe’s performances are determined by the spinning of a stylish and colourful “wheel of fortune” device, which displays categories ranging from dance, to karaoke, to “audience-participation Twister”. However, to spice things up even further, Horne removes a canvas cover from the wheel after each spin, revealing a new selection of topics. This routine gives the experience a tangible tempo, keeping the show bouncing along at breakneck speed and showcasing the superb range and versatility of the performers.

I look for several things when I’m making a festival recommendation, including laughs, originality and repeat-viewing-value. This ensemble show ticks all the boxes. I would happily return on successive nights, knowing that I’d see a new and still enthralling episode each time.

It’s at this stage that I am almost obliged to sign off with a rubbish pun, probably centred around “feeling Horne-y” or some similar bullshit. I’ll give it a miss. Instead, just go and wallow in the greatness that is the Horne Section: they are unmissable.

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