Oh, he’s quite funny — although it took a little while for the audience to warm to his confrontational style — but right now, Nick Helm is asking Londonist what our favourite film is, and he is taking us up on stage in front of the whole Purcell Room, sitting us down on the stage like a chum, and then yelling at us for not asking us what his favourite film was.
And now he’s serenading us with an angry, sweary love song less than six inches from our face. He is gently touching our knee even as he melodically screams at us. We are laughing to keep the panic attack safely inside our ribcage. Londonist is, in short, trying not to let this affect the review we are supposed to be writing.
We don’t know how it came to this. Nick Helm is one of two variety acts that are sort-of supporting, sort-of accompanying the Horne Section, a music hall-style comedy act fronted by the genial Alex Horne.
The Horne Section (the band) are incredibly talented jazz musicians who do some comedy courtesy of Horne himself. Their oeuvre is odes to bearded men, the extended version of “Happy Birthday” and the most heart-rending take on the Macarena you’re likely to experience.
The Horne Section (the show) is, as Alex Horne puts it to one audience member, “more Radio 4 than E4″. For the most part this is true; the jokes are kept strictly PG, the nudging of audience members is gentle. It’s warm, and it’s incredibly funny.
Nick Helm is funny, too, but in a totally different way. To be honest, we would prefer not to discuss it with anyone but our therapist.
In the second half, Felix Buxton of Basement Jaxx joins the main act on stage for a light chat show-esque interview. There’s a dip in the momentum here; musicians aren’t comedians, after all, they tend to communicate with music. Once Buxton takes up the conductor’s reins, though, for an unrehearsed performance of what starts out as Red Alert, the improvisation between guest and band is electrifying in its technical mastery.
That’s where the magic lies, really: all involved in the Horne Section are very good at what they do, and as a comedy act this multiple-award-winning show is entirely different from what you might be used to. Whether this is a good thing or not probably depends on your demographic: the audience on the 30 October skewed older than the typical comedy shows. If you’re looking for some venom in your comedy, you aren’t going to find it here.
While the main players are consistent throughout this short run at the Southbank Centre, the ‘variety acts’ are not. Until the 2 November, so-called support comes from Andy Zaltzman, Frisky & Mannish and Dave Gorman, among others.
There are still some tickets left, available for £20 at the Southbank Centre’s website. The Horne Section are playing until 2 November.