Mr. Flanagan of London
IN these islands our best loved
music-hall buffoons are provincial; we. like our farceurs home-spun, street-spun. Our humour is chauvinistic and we revel in the domestic joke.
When a Scot reminisces on the music-hall he thinks of Tommy Lorne wearing a fiery red pompadour wig and waddling across the stage at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow. Never was such a heinous blend of colour, a more dragon-like dowager. The beast breathed flame of clashing hues; the dignity was fiercesome. This was a beldame created, one felt, to declare not bazaars but battles Open, and launch nothing less than
aircraft carriers. Then a grating. fluting voice would say, "nothing but caviare with my chipped potatoes," and the whole edifice collapsed in laughter. Tommy was all of Glasgow and the Gorbals, down but never out, and laughing in the face of circumstance.
In the North of England it is, surely, that dear droll, George Formby, with the turnip head slashed by an incredible mouth of grinning teeth into a Hallowe'en lantern. Twang goes the ukelele and twang goes the voice full of oafish cunning and rustic wisdom. This is the lowest common denominator of all the tough virtues of the Lancashire lad.
Even in Dublin the great names of the Abbey have a waltzing competitor, Carmel Cassidy. and that frivolous socialite, Mrs. Mulligan," the pride of the Coombe." The voices that breathed o'er Stephen's Green have nothing on Jimmy O'Dea and that rich hoarseness varnished by oceans of stout into a flawless instrument for the destruction of the proud.
DAFT SWEET SONGS
London has known many great comics but surely the one who today speaks most truly for the Cockney is Bud Flanagan. This being the capital city of a great Empire, it is meet that the Londoner should bring a touch of the paternal to his behaviour ; eternally he plays host to visitors from strange cities and strange lands. The elephantine urchin Flanagan acts this role to perfection. He exudes benevolence. That smile looping downwards around the great jaw vaguely suggests the pouch of a kangaroo. The startled eyes resemble fried eggs. He grins gently. He is everybody's friend and the world is a stock of rock. When the husky tired voice breaks into one of his daft sweet little songs he is singing the babies of the Metropolis to sleep and he does not care whether they are blonde or brunette. The vast, hairy coat, the flattened boater. the swinging fat gait ; Mr. Flanagan, of London, welcomes you to no mean city. And there is nothing mean about Mr. Flanagan.
In Knights of Madness (VICTORIA PALAcE) he is a ly supported by his colleagues of the Crazy Gang. Wrapping dust sheets over the stalls audience, guarding an atom bomb, singing in lazy chorus, as tattered Edwardian beaux, of Leicester Square, as Butlin's campers, as a wedding party, they are gloriously, rudely funny. But it is a pity that, at times, their fun is not clean ; then it is not fun and is unfunny; it is banal. The Victoria Palace seems to bring out the worst in the best comics. There is too much smut in the London theatre today ; a cleanup is overdue, and it would be better if the performers commence the task now, before the initiative is taken elsewhere.
PUSS IN SLACKS
Mr. Ted Willis' The Lady Purrs (EMBASSY) is an engaging farce unevenly written, absentmindedly produced and stiffly acted by a company including good and not so good performers. The curtain rises on a thunder storm ; immediately it clears away we meet a pretty girl whose voice contains a purring note and who, like one of Beachcomber's lady spies. walks with " feline grace." Her name is Sandra ; she is Ginger the household cat changed into a girl by " dark forces." She knows everything ; the domestic cat being everyone's confidant. Mr. Willis tends to caricature his political types, Labour and Conservative, and his parson ; perhaps other political personages he knows in real life are not so easily exaggerated. His play adds up to boisterous fun with intervals of boredom.
Boardinghouse comedies are now clichés of the theatre, but good acting, from Miss Jean Cadell, Miss Tilsa Page and Miss Esme Beringer make Craven House (BEDFORD) acceptable entertainment.