Saturday, May 5, 2012

Peas and Queues

If you come back to On Centre Stage (OCS) from time to time you’ll discover that I have three great passions in life, the history of the British theatre and its ugly sister (but really beautiful)  music hall, the musical theatre and 1950s’ rock ‘n’ roll.

An odd ball collection perhaps, but hopefully that will make OCS unpredictable. This is my little corner of my cyber paradise, but I never loose sight of the fact that if I want an audience, I have also to engage and entertain.

Lloyd, and I guess music hall in general, was that she understood the halls were all about connecting with the people, the real working people, and holding up a mirror to their hopes, fears and aspirations etc.

If you want an insight into the social history of England around the late 19th century and early 20th century take a close look at the music hall during that period. The down-to-earth human stoy was all there. 

I mean, for instance, Coster songster and showman Gus Elens’ ‘If It Wasn’t for the Ouses In Between’, must rank as one of the  first social environmental impact studies? . Take a look.

I decided that this song was so important I'd add a few lyrics. 
(Edgar Bateman / George LeBrunn)
Gus Elen - 1899
If you saw my little backyard
"Wot a pretty spot", you'd cry
It's a picture on a sunny summer day
Wiv the turnip tops and cabbages
Wot people doesn't buy
I makes it on a Sunday look all gay
The neighbours finks I grow 'em,
And you'd fancy you're in Kent
Or at Epsom if you gaze into the mews
It's a wonder as the landlord
Doesn't want to raise the rent
Because we have such nobby distant views
Oh! it really is a wery pretty garden
And Chingford to the Eastward could be seen
Wiv a ladder and some glasses
You could see to 'Ackney Marshes
If it wasn't for the 'ouses in between

Marie’s contribution came when she tackled the wowsers (that’s an Aussie word for folk who want to put fun on the backburner) who were keen to dismantle the great music hall tradition (American readers note that's the UK's version of vaudeville).

Marie fronted up a morals committee in the 1890s (they wanted to close the people’s entertainment for goodness sake) and gave the performance of her life.

She did the saucy music hall favourite, She Sits among the Cabbages and Peas (get it) like it was a lovely middle- class ballad and Come into the Garden Maud (a genuine middle-class frontroom favourite) as if it were an invite to a lustful you-know-what.

(In another version of the above story I have been told she sang two music hall songs straight-faced, Oh! Mr Porter

and A Little Bit of What You Fancy
and the Come Into the Garden, Maud. shocked the committee into silence. Bet that was a relief all around!)

In the next few days I am going to post a  farting story from the music hall, which, at the time, was considered a great entertainment.

A 19th century French fartiste was one of the most successful performers on the European music hall stage, being paid heaps, and playing for the crown heads of Europe.

In the coming soon category I also have something on a new Australian play and, as the year rolls by, the Brisbane theatre scene just gets more exciting.

1 comment:

  1. Doug,
    I thought you were going to add some new lyrics for a while there. I can see I'll have to do it myself. Here's the last verse:

    Oh! it really is a wery pretty garden
    And Newstead to New Farm could be seen
    Wiv some glasses and a ladder
    You could see to Woolloongabba
    If it wasn't for the hospitals in between.