Vivian Stanshall

Sir Henry at Rawlinson End

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To call Sir Henry at Rawlinson End (the first of Stanshall's Sir Henry spoken-word sagas) bizarre is like saying Carter has a few little liver pills. The former Bonzo Dog Band frontman lets his imagination run riot on what is, essentially, a parody of British radio serials mixed with his interpretation of P.G. Wodehouse, all tempered by the deflating sensibility of, say, Monty Python. Does it make sense? No. Is there a plot? No. Does it matter? Not a bit. Stanshall is superbly entertaining, a wordsmith who can trip from the sublime to the louche in the wink of an eye, from wicked puns to appalling jokes in a tale (of sorts) set in a country estate, and told in more accents than you can shake a stick at. The music (uncredited, but quite probably former bandmate Neil Innes) ranges from '20s perky to neo-village brass band, making an apt accompaniment for the words. Allow yourself to get lost in the world of Rawlinson End for a while. It might be disorienting, but it's also quite enchanting. With Stanshall as your guide you'll get thoroughly lost, but come the end, you really won't care. He's so verbally adept that his web of words will leave you happily caught. So maybe, ultimately, it really is completely mad. It doesn't matter. It's madness touched with genius in conception and performance, and that's always been a rare enough commodity. Stanshall's individual, eccentric talent shines like the dong with the luminous nose.

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