Round the Horne: a blast from the past


Oh how bona to varda your dolly old eek!

Some people might know what that says, some might not, but it honestly it is a sentence  – in Polari. And to help we’ve compiled a little Polari key at the end of the piece.

Way back in the days when your grandparents were the age you are now there used to be a funny show on the radio called Round the Horne. Back then, being gay was illegal, so homosexual men would use Polari as a form or sub-cultural slang to communicate. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the best thing about Round the Horne. It used Polari for it’s more risqué characters, and they got away with saying a lot that would not be appropriate for today’s radio.

Round the Horne was a radio show featuring Kenneth Horne, Kenneth Williams, Hugh Paddick, Betty Marsden and Douglas Smith as crazy characters that could make you laugh. It ran between the years of 1965 to 1968. Back then people used to pull over their cars to listen to the show, and find out what characters such as Julian and Sandy were up to. Featuring the old language of Polari, a gay-speak that gay men and women used in the 50’s when homosexuality was illegal in Britain, Round the Horne got away with a lot of innuendos, silly jokes and sexual references.

This show is no different to that golden age of radio. Round the Horne is set up like a radio studio, with the actors on stage acting as those fondly remembered radio voices. They dressed the same, looked the same, and their voices were spot on. You couldn’t have put together a better cast! Speaking to some of the theatregoers in the audience beside me, I found out that Julian Howard as Kenneth Horne sounded exactly like the original, his voice was spot on.

Colin Elmer as Kenneth Williams did an absolutely bona job. He even looked the part, with his slicked hair and timely suit. His mannerisms were spot on and the way he interacted with the cast in that true Williams’ accent really hit the comedic spot. He bounced off of the other actors and even had his own little ‘drama moments’ just like Kenneth Williams used to have when he didn’t like the way the script was written.

Also worth a standing ovation was the sound effects engineer/musician, Conrad Segal. He had his own little set up with a piano, gong, and several other items surrounding a microphone that he would then use as sound effects for the sketches in the show. His timing was perfect, especially for jokes that Douglas Smith would do. It really set the scene and feel for the show to have this sound effects person on stage and visible, and highlights just how hard it could be when you had to make your own effects rather than pressing a few buttons like today. Bravo!

Overall the show was fantastic, the audience loved it. Unfortunately Stoke-on-Trent was this show’s last stop on its 50th anniversary tour, and it was on for one night only at the Victoria Hall! But who knows, maybe the theatre company will rekindle that old bona show and bring it back one day. It’s fantabulosa!

See the Apollo Theatre Company website for more information.

Polari key:

Bona: Good/great

Varda: To look

Eek: Face

Riah: Hair

Dolly: Pretty/nice/pleasant

Lallies: Legs

Omi: Man

Palone: Woman

Esong: Nose

Fantabulosa: Wonderful

Feele: Child

Fruit: Queen

Gelt: Money

Glossies: Magazines

Hoofer: Dancer


About Author

Comments are closed.