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Brighton Fringe 2010

I Found My Horn

Sweet Spot Theatre

Venue: The Friends’ Meeting House


Low Down

Directed by Harry Burton Starring Jonathan Guy Lewis Adapted from the book by Jasper Rees, this is a story of a positive response to the mid-life crisis. "Waking up at forty to a broken marriage, bedsit land, and the realisation that he has done nothing to make himself memorable, Jasper Rees sets his sights on achieving the impossible." He picks up a musical instrument, he hasn’t touched since late teenhood, and sets his sights on mastering in well enough to wow a public audience. So begins the quest involving French horn, self-doubt, and ultimate personal triumph.


This already much acclaimed show plays the rather secluded space at the Friends’ Meeting House. Written by Jonathan Guy Lewis and Jasper Rees and starring the former, the show Is an adaptation of the book by the latter. A show that has toured in the U.S, this is a play about personal mastery and feeling a sense of achievement before we die. This is a story of the ticking clock.

His goal: to become master of the French horn in front of a live, paying audience.This is a play about mojo and what happens when we lose it and the possibility of getting it back, no matter how hopelessly lost it seems.
It isn’t easy to stage life affirming theatre in the cynical times in which we live. We begin here in a nightmare, one we’ve all had, naked in front of an audience, utterly exposed in public.
Our hero launches himself as a single horn, among a horn armada on a sea of brass. A mountain to climb, the mastery of the school days instrument is the symbol for finally achieving something in life. He doesn’t just take up the horn, he takes it on. "Sixteen feet of coiled brass tubing." We’re with him all the way.
The single performer is very at ease on the stage; the acting is fluent, the delivery and movement tight.
The cleverness in this play’s core content is that this is a tale of moving forwards through life, taking a significant biographical step onwards, through reaching back into the past and picking up a lost narrative thread. The horn becomes the key to revivifying his life "before it is too late", a quantum jump away from a life of essential nonachievement towards a significant story to look back later in life and recount to grandchildren with pride. It’s a motivating piece of writing, reminding one of Billy Elliot and Brassed Off, yet is has a more direct charm, and the victory at the end feels more human, less Hollywood.
The style is direct, acted storytelling, told and shown in a very
endearing manner.
An interesting feature of the writing is that the central plot line is shared with us from the very beginning. The story is fired like a gun from the start and so, dramatically, the question is: Is there enough propulsion to keep the narrative interest for the audience right to the end? The answer is a resounding yes.
And he can play the horn of course, and he does just that.
The writing style is so accessible that we’re soon sniggering and laughing at horn in-jokes as if we are all horn players ourselves!
It is heartwarming, light comedy and an engaging story, though this performance felt a little muffled. The lack of strong and focused lighting design and the sense we were in a barely converted room, rather than a dedicated theatre space didn’t serve this one person performance well. Wood panelled walls, shared by both performer and audience, didn’t help in setting the on stage scene – it was left entirely to the performer to do that, but we were too much still in the Friends’ Meeting House. A backdrop, some flats, or a more complex lighting design might help.
A strong one person show, well worth seeing.


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