United Kingdom The Horne Section, Pleasance Grand (Venue 33), Edinburgh, 20.8.2012 (SRT)
The Horne Section are a group of extremely talented musicians who do as good a job as I’ve ever seen at combining great music with comedy. Their style of playing is broadly big-band, but they use this to help build some extremely funny comic situations.
They’re led by Alex Horne, who has done some work for Radio 4, something he alludes to at the start when trying to pinpoint the show’s target age range (“We’re Radio 4, not E4”). Their set-pieces involve illustrating jazz terms using I Got Rhythm, cooking an egg to music in the space of a minute, and a beautifully silly Olympics montage.
The sheer versatility of the band is incredible, though. One of the first things they do is to improvise a tune, in a given key, based on themes shouted out by the audience; we got a very impressive combination of Superstition, Jurassic Park and Baywatch!
Each night they also get a trio of comedy guests who are invited to use the band however they like to enrich their routines. On my night we got Peacock and Gamble, who didn’t quite get it, and Phil Jupitus, who overthought the whole thing, ended up reading off a script and, in the end-up, was pretty dreadful; not even the band were able to save his monotonous monologue. On the other hand, The Boy With Tape On His Face was fantastic, with a very funny take on Lady in Red, and a horse race to the accompaniment of the William Tell overture.
I liked the way Horne sat on a sofa at the back of the stage, quietly judging each guest, sympathising with the audience. His final hymn to bearded men was a great, interactive finish. I laughed energetically for the full hour, but in the middle of this it was easy to forget just how brilliant the music was. As well as the jokes, it’s more than an hour of effortless tunes, improvised with breathtaking ease and amazing skill. Catch it while you can.
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe continues until 27th August at a range of venues across the city. For full details click here.