I have just joined the Max Wall Society. The members are all called Bricks (Wall, brick, geddit?) and they have dinners where they reminisce about famous music hall stars. I’m too young to remember the halls, but years ago the Bath Arts Workshop booked a couple of fading troupers to attract older people to our wild alternative festivals.
One was Tommy Trinder, who being used to record-breaking runs at The Palladium moaned like heck about having to change in an old caravan before performing in a wet tent in the middle of a field. Nevertheless, his act went down a storm and he returned the next night in a better mood and did it all again.
Sandy Powell, the celebrated cod magician, whose catch phrase your granny will remember as ‘Can you here me mother?’ was more gracious. He and his glamorous wife thought nothing of slipping into their immaculate stage gear as the rain thundered on the tin roof. ‘I’ve played worse places’ he laughed, remembering no doubt many a summer season on rickety seaside piers.
Part of his act was to toss little presents to the audience, including what he claimed was a fresh egg. Of course, everybody screamed even though they knew it was hard-boiled.
Years later, I pinched the act when distributing prizes, including six ‘fresh’ eggs, from a non-existent raffle in our famous rock spoof, The Rocky Ricketts Show. One night at Leicester University, I realised I’d forgotten to boil the eggs. I had started so I finished as it were and simply aimed high as I lobbed them from the stage. On a return visit several years later, the dried egg stains were still visible on the curtains at the back of the hall!
It was the Punk era and the audience had developed the habit of not only throwing beer at the stage but also spitting at the acts, so I never bothered to boil the eggs again. Like for like, I thought. The raffle section became a bit of a cult, and lads in the crowd became adept at catching the eggs and chucking them back, often scoring a direct hit between the eyes of yours truly.
It gave new meaning to the theatrical phrase ‘It felt a bit eggy tonight’.