Director: Jessica Edwards
Reviewer: Paul Couch
It’s a strange beast, Vaudeville. It officially declined with the introduction of cinema in the 1930s. There was no great battle of cultures, however, it was a simply a case that public appetites changed and the silver screen got a foothold onto the music hall stage, slowly sweeping aside the live performers.
In saying that, the genre’s never really died. Its songs have been passed down, and are familiar still to the collective national consciousness, with songs such as Burlington Bertie From Bow, Down At The Old Bull And Bush, My Old Man (Said Follow the Van) being remembered and repeated by people born long after the last Vaudeville theatre became a Roxy or a Curzon.
Flipping The Bird’s The Itinerant Music Hall features three spectres from those early days who have remained corporeal after their music hall, the Hackney Empire (in realitystill standing and thriving) collapsed. Now, bedraggled and confused, they are on an endless tour to entertain with works from the period.
They do so brilliantly; James Rowland as Varsickle Tilly, Kate Adams as Picadilly Johnny, and Pete Ashmore as Glass Eye Charlie, work their rotting socks off. Despite Latitude’s blistering heat and members of the public blundering across the performance area with pushchairs, not an eye is batted nor a look seconded.
The Itinerant Music Hall could be a little longer – after all, there’s so much material at their disposal. Just as we’re all getting into the swing of it, it comes to a grinding stop. There’s an old saying about always leaving the audience wanting more, but this brevity is just callous.
Latitude is famous for its quirky content, and it doesn’t get much quirkier nor enjoyable as this.
Photo: Rebecca Naen