Review: Stop Messing About

Richard BatsonThe braying nasal tones of comic genius Kenneth Williams come from a different time. An era when the nation belly-laughed at the outlandish characters he created on the wireless dial and the cinema screen.Richard Batson

Norwich Theatre Royal

The braying nasal tones of comic genius Kenneth Williams come from a different time.

An era when the nation belly-laughed at the outlandish characters he created on the wireless dial and the cinema screen.


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Stop Messing About was one of his best known catch phrases. It was also the 1969 radio show which was a sequel to the hugely popular Round the Horne.

The death of anchorman Kenneth Horne propelled Williams from second fiddle to star, but the follow up show was axed after two years and most concede it was a flop.

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Both radio shows have been recreated on stage in recent years amid a BBC radio studio setting. The cast grasp scripts behind vintage microphones, and deliver comedy that has more smut than a chimney-sweep's van.

For an Aunty Beeb show that would have been listened to be millions of families at a time well before edgy alternative stand up comics, it simmers with humour that would today be frowned upon as sexist and unPC.

Robin Sebastian brilliantly mimics Williams nostril-flaring theatrics. Nigel Harrison is the smooth Hugh Paddick, Emma Atkins the sexy Joan Sims, and Charles Armstrong as staid announcer Douglas Smith.

The sketches are a relentless rollercoaster of high octane wordplay, with entendres at the double, treble and quadruple.

But much as I love puns and clever language but after nearly two hours it begins to numb.

And while Round the Horne had classic characters such as Julian and Sandy and Rambling Syd Rumpo, its sequel had few such nuggets.

Crackerjackanory with Mother sees an innocent children's story get progressively bawdy, and ….

The fact that the Williams character has to drag out his Carry On Cleo classic 'Infamy' line is perhaps indication that the lifeboats are being launched.

This show, coming to Norwich on the first date of a national tour and running until Saturday, is a nostalgic step back into the days of steam radio - but like its inspiration it is a sequel to a format that was beginning to run out of steam.

t Stop Messing About continues at the Theatre Royal until January 30.

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