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Sir Henry At Rawlinson End

Practically everything the genteelly unhinged Vivian Stanshall did lends itself to untold repeated scrutiny – we only just noticed the other day how his early ’90s Ruddles Real Ale adverts contain a bizarre homage to Purple Haze – and nothing of his is more dense and packed with detail than the decrepit pile and inhabitants of Rawlinson End. Translated from the LP monologues and Peel Sessions, but crucially not losing the bite of the original riotous routines, the sepia-tinted world of musty armour, itinerant staff and gin-senile gentry is there in all its incontinent majesty, with Trevor Howard topping off a fine cast as lord of the manor. The plot, such as it is, involves Patrick Magee’s attempted exorcism of the trouserless ghost of Henry’s invisible toy dog-walking brother (played by Stanshall), but that’s almost a formality amongst the dovetailing vignettes of Harry Fowler’s spying spiv, Denise Coffey’s tapeworm advice, Sir H’s personal PoW camp, etc. etc. If it has a failing, it’s that there’s too much going on – as soon as one gag has unfolded, it’s superceded by another one as the script gets seemingly bored with itself. Not that the audience is in danger of following suit – it takes an effort to keep up with the pace of invention. But it’s well worth it.

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