Leeds City Varieties & Other Great Venues

Leeds City Varieties is a beautiful theatre, hugely atmospheric; it was built in 1865 – a long rectangle with boxes down either side upstairs.

I felt incredibly honoured to tread the boards in a theatre where performers such as Charlie Chaplin, Marie Lloyd and Harry Houdini busted moves, threw shapes and cracked jokes.

They used to do THE GOOD OLD DAYS at this theatre venue.

I used to work with Keith Harris and Orville (the duck had the bigger dressing room) and Keith always relished performing at City Varieties theatre because – ‘If you couldn’t go down well there you might as well give up’. I remember seeing performers like Danny La Rue in his elaborate drag costumes (the women /drag artistes always seemed to look better in Old Tyme Music Hall mufti) – the guys always seemed to be in a kind of three piece suit with slicked down hair.

I remember Bobby Knutt going on back in the day and he assumed an entirely different character from that of the smart ass comic that he usually played. Frank Carson was himself whatever era he was pretending to assay. Charlie Williams also didn’t bother to go on in character when he did the Good Old Days …good job, cos back in those days he’d have been a slave right? Equiano with jokes.

The show was pretty good for a ‘first night of the tour ahhhghghghgh’ night. I had mic problems in that – I have the pop singer face mic thing – and it’s basically sellotaped to your face. (original – why not just staple the effing thing to my cheek?) The minute any sweat hit the tape, it just peeled off. Cue much hilarity.

Also there’s a little mic bag where the battery lives – which is hooked onto the performers belt, or hidden in the back pocket or wherever. Mine was on the belt – and kept flying loose looking like I had some kind of …I dunno …tiny black utility-bag flying around there. The audience were very kind and forgave little things and gave it up in the end.

Mansfield Palace theatre – night two of the tour. This place opened in 1910 – used to be a cinema; this place has played host to people like Larry Grayson ‘shut that door’ , Hylda Baker -‘Don’t be riccydooculous’ (I used to love her – she used to work with a tall guy wearing a blonde wig …don’t know why, but it used to crease my mom up every time.)

The show last night (apart from a wrong lighting cue at end of part one) was joyous and enjoyable (I’m talking about for me now) – the audience wanted to play which was wonderful. I felt like I was seeing them for the first time and they were enjoying not only the set pieces but also the bits in between (the little fishy bits). Great sound last night – and a pleasure to work to such good natured people.

Redditch tomorrow – Come on the Midlands!

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