All Edinburgh Theatre - Thom Dibden

Review – Come Blow Your Horn
Published: August 11th, 2013

* * * Enjoyable retro entertainment

Murrayfield Parish Church Centre (Venue 104)
Wed 7 – Sat 17 Aug 2013
Review by Hugh Simpson
Show picture
The Edinburgh Makars provide a solid evening’s entertainment and some big laughs in their production of Neil Simon’s Come Blow Your Horn at Murrayfield Parish Church Centre.

This was Simon’s first play, and while it contains many of the wisecracking exchanges which characterise his later, more celebrated efforts, it would be too much of a stretch to call it an important work.

It seems to contain some semi-autobiographical elements, not least in the character of Buddy Baker, a 21-year-old aspiring playwright who ‘runs away from home’ in order to move in with his thirty-something brother Alan.

Alan enjoys a carefree, womanising lifestyle from his New York bachelor pad, while doing as little work as possible for their father’s wax fruit business. Over the following weeks, Buddy transforms himself into a carbon copy of his brother, while Alan begins to question his life choices.

Betraying its roots in the television scripts Simon was working on before his move into theatre, the play seems more like a generic sitcom than a fully realised theatrical piece. The message that we all need to grow up at some point is not a particularly profound one, and somewhat laboured over.

It is also instructive to see how much a play first performed in 1961 now appears to be very much set in another world in terms of its events and attitudes.  
Nevertheless, there is more than enough enjoyment to be had here, and the cast largely rise to the challenge.

Derek Melon is impressive in the central role of Alan, bringing a ruffled, exasperated charm to what could be an extremely unsympathetic role. Wullie Cunningham displays consummate comic timing as Mr Baker, Alan and Buddy’s father, while Jan Renton’s hangdog, lugubrious air as his wife leads to many of the biggest laughs.

Retro period charm without being overdone

Buddy’s transformation from a whining nerd in an oversized suit into a confident, fashionable Lothario is well handled by Josh Sommariva, although his performance as the latter is certainly the stronger of the two, allowing him as it does to introduce more variety in his vocal delivery.

Becky Dunn is excellent as Peggy, the ditzy wannabe actress who is one of Alan’s many dalliances. The part could be an unsatisfactory and stereotypical one, but she manages to invest it with a real believability. The role of Connie, the woman who is regarded by Alan as ‘different’, could also be a difficult one.

Fifty years after the play’s first performance, modern audiences are likely to be bemused by an apparently strong woman whose only real ambition is to be a ‘housewife’, but Carole Birse conveys the contradictions of the character and her attractions for Alan convincingly, despite occasional struggles with 
her accent. Tina Courtier’s cameo as ‘A Visitor”, meanwhile, in terms of time on stage, must be a contender for the highest laughs-per-minute ratio in the entire Fringe.

Margaret Milne’s unfussy direction keeps the action moving along effectively, while the set is a particular joy, being full of retro period charm without being overdone.

At times the dialogue might benefit from picking up in pace. There is always a danger of going too fast with this kind of wisecracking repartee, but here the cast sometimes go too far the other way. The kind of crosstalk Simon uses, with characters picking up on each other’s metaphors, is very far from being realistic; attempting to present it as such can therefore make it seem a little too heavy.

It is noticeable that whenever a character becomes angry, the actors work off each other more quickly and the rhythm of the performance improves. As the run goes on, this may well be reflected in the rest of what is already a highly enjoyable performance.

Running time 2 hrs 30 mins
Run ends Sat 17 August 2013
Venue 104, Murrayfield Parish Church Centre, Ormidale Terrace, EH12 6EQ
Tickets from /
Makars website:

ENDS                          Back
The cast

East Coast FM Review
Mention the name of Neil Simon to anyone and you are instantly reminded of his sharply observed wit, and a style of sophisticated one-liners that are usually uttered by cynical, worldly characters, eventually found possessing an unlikely heart of gold. With the majority of his work, more often than not, set around uptown New York during the 60’s and 70’s.

His endless supply of plays and films that originated from his busy typewriter includes some of the best-loved comedy writing of the past 50 years or so. And this would go on to make him perhaps the most financially successful writer of Broadway plays ever.

Even a scant look at his output is enough to put a pleasurable smile on the most downcast of faces: The Odd Couple, Barefoot in the Park, The Sunshine Boys and The Goodbye Girl, to name but a few.

His first major hit as a writer came with his 1961 Broadway play Come Blow Your Horn, a production that would set the template for many of his future successes. Two years later it was made into a popular film with Frank Sinatra in the lead role, ably supported by Lee J Cobb, hilarious as his combustible father.
This Fringe production by the amateur company The Edinburgh Makers sets the action in a cleverly recreated look of a stylish bachelor apartment in New York, circa early 1960’s. The blurb in the programme invites the audience to “join the dysfunctional Baker family in one of Neil Simon’s hilarious romps”. And yet what you really get (and the main crux of the play) is one brother’s avoidance of matrimony, whilst his younger brother (over a swift 3 week period) casts off his nerdish nervousness of life by eventually embracing the cool, hedonistic lifestyle of his elder sibling. Much to the eternal annoyance and frustration of their parents! But suffice to say that it all ends up happily with the family reunited in harmony, and the status quo more or less retained.

So, it’s a familial rights of passage saga, with a light hearted New York Jewish American slant, that invites lots of romantic complications, maternal yearnings and paternal obstinacy. Not forgetting phones ringing, doorbells ringing, and an endless supply of good-humoured one-liners as the characters walk through the door.

What impressed me most was the lead players mastery of that peculiar style of New York Jewish 
accent, most prevalent in the majority of Simon’s work. Although actress Carole Birse, playing the role of Connie did equally pretty well with her rendition of American Deep South tones. Not easy mixing that with your natural Scottish burr, I could well imagine. No doubt she put in a lot of patience to capture the nuances of that distinctive sound. Full marks for her efforts.

For my money, the best performance came from the young Josh Sommariva, who appeared the most comfortable on stage, as the younger brother Buddy, evoking his uncertainty at flying the family nest for the very first time, and acutely aware of how troubled and upset his parents would be at this tentative display of youthful rebellion.

But anyway, hats off to The Edinburgh Makers for attempting to bring something that little bit different to the stage and to the Fringe this year, whilst recreating in an Edinburgh Church Hall one of the forgotten comedy glories of Broadway by one of the true masters of his craft. I am sure that Mr Simon would have been most pleased by their collective efforts.

Lawrence Lettice

Come Blow Your HornEdinburgh Evening News
  COME Blow Your Horn is a sprightly Sixties comedy by playwright Neil Simon, who later went on to pen Barefoot in the Park and The Odd Couple.
  Cue a series of New York apartment- based misunderstandings and quick-fire family squabbling. If you can picture someone like Frank Sinatra at the centre of it all, then you’d be spot on, the play having been adapted into a film starring the twinkle-eyed crooner.
  Heading the cast as irresponsible playboy Alan Baker, Derek Melon holds the drama together well at Murrayfield Parish Church Centre, as his world is simultaneously turned inside out by his girlfriend, his little brother and his bummed out father.
Josh Sommariva, as Alan’s naive kid brother Buddy, captures just the right tone, attitude and tempo to bring out the best in his character and co-stars, although, the production as a whole lacked the quick-fire energy required to really make it sing.
  It’s almost as if the frenetic urgency that underscores 1960s New York set productions has been amputated entirely.
  The rest of the ensemble provide convivial turns, even if they all fall prey to accent slip from time to time.
  Carole Birse’s Connie might well be markedly improved if played in the actress’s own accent, purely to make her more confident on stage.