Making proper use . . .
. . . Of the means of growing in grace.
What is Variety?
“Variety and only variety is worth the price of admission to this vale of tears”
The latest dance
The biggest personalities
The antithesis of boredom.
In times of trouble and despair.
The search for talent
Acrobats skilled in comedy.
Clowning – oldest of traditions.
Variety in the 1920s
Lavish and sophisticated.
Circus tumblers and acrobatic dancers.
The finest hoofers
Sister Acts all the rage.
The nut monologuist and the vent act!
Another magic trick.
Legends of legerdemain.
The achievements of these performers seem unsurpassable.
The escapology act
In the cheaper seats, sometimes cruel.
Or open-mouthed – desperate to face their nightmares.
Where to see a tiger, a giantess and an acrobatic sea lion.
Sea lions imitate bathing belles
Comical monkeys. Performing dogs.
The lady at 77 has the complexion of a 17 year-old.
God delights in the harvests which the earth brings forth.
The Best of Everything
Movies on stage.
A flavour of Ibsen, Shakespeare, or a social drama:
The ‘one-act playlet’ with a star name in the cast.
A newsreel item, squeezed in between turns.
The high-brow in music and ballet
With syncopation, rhythm and blues, opera and tap-dancing.
Science and unlikely inventions
Demonstrated before a curious audience.
2 hours and and 3 quarters for a night’s entertainment at selected venues.
The moulded limbs of Léotard swing within inches of granny’s head.
Not a place for the faint-hearted performer.
The MOUTHIEST critic
Get on and off FAST!
“You’d meet a vaudevillian on the street and ask him how he was doing and he’d answer ‘seventeen minutes’ if he were a top act.”
Woe betide the act that has to follow the smash hit !
” . . . but if the Houston Sisters had been on before them, the audience wouldn’t let them off.”
Renée Houston, 1974
You send your luggage ahead of you.
“There’s all this luggage for touring in variety. If luggage gets delayed, you’re in the SOUP!! Nevertheless, it’s marvellous what can be done in an emergency. Only a few months ago my kid sister Shirley and I were in Edinburgh for an opening week of a brand new act. We reached the theatre and found we had no trunk – everything – props and all had gone to the Isle of Man! Shirley had an evening dress with her but I only had the travelling dress in which I stood.
Normally I have to get all my suits tailored for me as I am very small – there was no time in Edinburgh. Believe it or not in 10 minutes, I went into a store and I was able to fit myself out in slacks, a blazer, shirt, tie etc. I told the audience the story of what had happened. The audience wouldn’t believe me – they thought the whole thing was a gag.”
Billie Houston, 1936
They used to call it ‘Music Hall’
Come and be dazzled!
Every town has a place where you might hear ‘Roll out the Barrel.’
The Chairman does his stuff.
You have to do something in your act and it sure takes time to perfect it.
Soon you’ll be able to keep your end up – and compete with the best of them.
the rollicking torch song, the strumming folk song, the female impersonator, the champion clog-dancer, the Irish singer, the spoon-tapper, the dancing American blackface comic, the male impersonator, the singing pugilist, the freak act and the saucy low comedienne.
Please don’t look back, Miss H.
“I like beauty in the theatre. I believe in bringing the audience up to your level, not dragging them down to it. That’s the difference between today and the old days . . .”
Renée Houston, 1975
You’re looking through a glass darkly.
“I’m looking through a rusted keyhole darkly!”
Those proud suburbs and even prouder theatres.
Those programmes with pretty covers.
In distress: The Brighton Hippodrome, 2016
From Metropolitan Theatre of Varieties to Metropolitan Police:
Now cinemas, pubs, religious centres, shops, supermarkets . . .
Changing times at Golders Green (above) and the Saville, Shaftesbury Avenue (below)
Class Differences Everywhere.
An Antidote – Communal laughter – Softening notions of division . . .
Camouflaged – No pain – Endless joy, beauty, illusion.
Razor-like manoeuvres by star turns aren’t witnessed.
“Hearts rebuilt from hope resurrect dreams killed by hate.”
Hope is Eternal.
Their gifts were many
and they were much admired . . .
A fellow comic from the 1930s was John Tilley – son of Scottish footballer JF Thompson.
Here he is below, with Reginald Gardiner. They are impersonating BBC commentators.
Robb Wilton was almost family.
A homage to incompetent authority.
“The greatest English comedian of all – Robb Wilton.”
Renée Houston, 1975
Expect the unexpected with Charlie Laughton.
An inspiration, friend and rival, Gracie Fields.
“Gracie was a TRUE clown – one of the GREATEST.”
Renée Houston, 1975
“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.”