How much adoration can you have for the French horn? Director Harry Burton takes every action to investigate that question in the newest rendition of the book-turned-play I Found My Horn. Through deep, meaningful conversations with his dusty brass instrument, protagonist Jasper (Jonathan Guy Lewis) reinvents himself in the midst of an unmistakable midlife crisis.
Hidden in the attic of Jasper’s - recently turned ex- wife is the object that will become the aimless man’s focal point for the year to come. Following a divorce, a move out of the family home and increasing estrangement from his pubescent son, the protagonist feels as if his life is in limbo and needs reaffirmed purpose. He indeed finds that purpose by once again picking up his childhood avocation. The one thing that he was promised would give him “wings to fly” in life but has failed him ever since now whispers in an Eastern European accent from the black leather case which houses the feared instrument. Having nothing better to do, Jasper immerses himself in hours of practice, a trip to the US of A for Horn Camp and a kindling friendship with fellow hornblower Dave - the ultimate goal being to perform Mozart’s dreaded horn concerto at the annual Horn Society concert.
Lewis’ portrayals of hippie Americans, eccentric music teachers, and pubescent sons give the one-man show the pizzazz it needs. His multifaceted performance makes it easy to let the imagination loose and to follow passionate Jasper into a world where a French horn can be one’s closest adviser. His harmless gags directed at French horn aficionados and classical music devotees frequently tickle a snicker from those who are aware of the struggles of Mozart’s K. 495 composition.
I Found My Horn is a show that has been perfected since its adaptation from Jasper Rees’ book of the same name. As affirmative and feel-good as Jasper’s strive towards musical fulfilment is, it is slightly dampened by an exuberant amount of traditional theatrical choices. A superfluous stage design which serves not only as Jasper’s stuffed attic but also as the Horn Society’s concert stage, the local pub, and North America’s hot spot for French horn players, does little for the show itself. Similarly loaded is the show’s sound design which aims to pay tribute to historic moments for the French horn (think Hallelujah or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), however, hardly gives Lewis a moment to breathe and settle into his performance. Oftentimes being played for no apparent reason, it occasionally overshadows the actor’s delivery.
Luckily, Lewis’ performance never once fails to put a smile on one’s face as his innocence and excitement move the audience. Finishing with a five-minute French horn performance, I Found My Horn is an amusing and affirming testimony to the fact that you can “not change the past but heal the present”. And perhaps a French horn is all it takes.
It runs until 7 June.
Review: Shirley Both Photo: Max Hamilton-Mackenzie