Of all the theatrical styles, monologues must be the most terrifying, both as a writer and a performer. Whilst it’s true a poor script can be saved by a great performance and a sub-par performance can be saved by an amazing script, everyone involved has to strive for the perfect combination of both script and performance. When that happens, the monologue is boosted into the stratosphere and I was lucky enough to catch such a performance at the White Bair Theatre where I Found My Horn has recently opened.
Jasper Rees (Jonathan Guy Lewis) is a middle-aged, middle-class, white man going through a divorce. So far, so normal. Today, he is in the attic of his old house moving his stuff out into his new Batchelor abode. His 15-year-old son Daniel is meant to be helping but, being a surly teenager of the type hated by the Daily Mail, Daniel is too busy playing awful music way too loud and ensuring his pants have the right amount of sag in them to assist his father. So Jasper is alone with his bits and pieces and his memories. As he clears, he finds his old French horn – an instrument he hasn’t touched since a disastrous school concert 39 years ago. Seeing the horn sparks off memories for Jasper and starts him on a journey that makes him re-evaluate everything and re-think what his life could be.
Adapted from the best-selling book by Jasper Rees and Jonathan Guy Lewis, I Found My Horn is a script that works superbly despite some of the cliched aspects of the story. Part of this is because not only is the story easily imaginable, but every character also feels very real. From the main hero Jasper questioning his achievements in life – something most of us do, especially as we approach the proverbial mid-life crises – to the simpering school teacher who reminded me so much of my music teacher in high school, every character had a place that made sense. And every character was portrayed beautifully by Jonathan Guy Lewis in what was a virtuoso performance. Providing appropriate voice and mannerisms not only for the main character but for everyone else including his son, his horn (made in Czechoslovakia) and a bluff old Bavarian horn player called Hermann Baumann who he meets at Kendall Betts Horn Camp. As well as acting his socks off, Jonathan spends the last 10 minutes of the show, well I can’t say without raising the spectre of spoilers, but believe me, it is pretty amazing.
Before summing up, I need to mention two more things. Alex Marker’s wonderful attic set, took me back to my days with my parents going up there to get the Christmas decorations out. The second is the music. There are 24 musical excerpts in the 80 minutes runtime and, aside from being an amazing selection for anyone that likes horn music, they really add to the atmosphere of the piece and bring home what a great instrument the horn is.
When you look at the heart of, I Found My Horn is a simple story of a middle-aged man who wants to leave his mark but comes to the realisation that nothing in life is easy and if he wants to achieve something in his life, he needs to work for it. Fairly obvious you might think, but thanks to a superb script and wonderful performance, something that will resonate with everyone lucky enough to see the show.
Review by Terry Eastham
The White Bear is thrilled to present a revival of the hit one-man show I Found My Horn, starring Jonathan Guy Lewis. First seen in 2008 at the Aldeburgh Festival, and subsequently in the West End, New York and Los Angeles, this joyous, feelgood show places the transforming power of music centre-stage.
A man wakes up in midlife to a broken marriage and the dawning fear that he has done nothing to make himself memorable. Packing away his life as he prepares for divorce, he is struck by an insane idea: why not pick up the French horn he never conquered in his youth?
So it is that, after a lay-off of several decades, Jasper Rees seeks unlikely adventure and redemption via 16 feet of treacherous brass tubing. Dusting off the instrument he last played as a gormless teen, he sets himself an impossible task: to perform a Mozart concerto in front of a paying audience of horn fanatics.
31st January – 11th February 2023
I Found My Horn