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Stop Messing About

PUBLISHED: 09:43 28 January 2010 | UPDATED: 07:46 02 July 2010

Richard Batson

Norwich Theatre Royal

Stop Messing About

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.

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 never enjoyed the same glory.

Both radio shows have however been successfully 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 a show from the wholesome Aunty Beeb and from a time before edgy alternative comedy, it simmers with humour that could today be frowned upon as sexist and unPC - but which is a riotous relentless romp of high octane wordplay, with entendres at the “dooble”, treble and quadruple.

Robin Sebastian brilliantly mimics Williams' nostril-flaring theatrics, mincing around stage, flipping from whinnying laugh to outraged withering gaze. Nigel Harrison is the smooth Hugh Paddick, India Fisher the sassy Joan Sims, and Charles Armstrong staid announcer Douglas Smith.

The show lacks the legendary characters of Round the Horne, but is at its best in the movie adaptions, where the characters and comic timing combine superbly with the script.

Yes it's vulgar - with every tiddle, ditty, cock and snatch reference milked to full effect - but it is also entertaining, especially to a pun-worshipper like me.

The fact that the Williams character has to drag out his Carry On Cleo classic “Infamy” line , and a quick “ooh matron” is perhaps symptomatic that this radio sequel was in need of a crutch. There, they've got me doing it.

But this production, 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 - and an insight into a radio show format, which like its comic star, was beginning to run out of steam.

Richard Batson

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