Wednesday, 1 June 2016

BEFORE THE BUSES: a museum fund-raiser with a difference


Sue Newcombe, manager of Budleigh Salterton's Tourist Information Centre, is delighted to be handling ticket sales for the Reg Varney tribute show BEFORE THE BUSES on Fri 1 and Sat 2 July

It’s a fund-raiser for Fairlynch, but rather different from the usual events. And it’s going to raise money for two other good charities, and provide a great evening’s entertainment. Or rather, two evenings, as the show BEFORE THE BUSES is taking place on Friday 1 and Sat 2 July at 7.30 pm.  

Reg Varney’s story, as those who have seen the museum’s centenary tribute exhibition will know, is impressive.  

Reg Varney, aged 10, with his father. Their relationship is touchingly described in the autobiography The Little Clown

A wartime birth 100 years ago; the discovery of his amazing gift as a musician and as a comic, making his way from humble beginnings in the working men’s clubs of London’s Docklands to stardom in the capital’s West End; surviving the 1940 Blitz; performing in cinemas, as a ventriloquist, in pantomime, as a Shakespearean clown; going on to bring laughter to millions in shows like The Rag Trade and On the Buses, including in his performances a little-known but much praised role as a tragicomic straight actor which turned out to be the greatest gamble of his career… 

With some heart attacks on the way. 

His parents saved up to buy him an accordion as a birthday present, so impressed were they by his musical talent

Yes, his life was a drama in itself. We could have written Reg - The Musical, says Prior Commitment director Steve Andrews, with whom I’ve been working on the project along with a small group of local residents. They include Reg Varney’s daughter Jeanne Marley, who wanted to the show to benefit Children’s Hospice South West, another of her favourite charities.

Reg - The Musical would of course have included episodes from his later life when the star was one of Britain’s best known celebrities, seen here when he was invited to inaugurate the world’s first ATM by Barclays Bank.  

Later, in 1976, he would be honoured as a Freeman of the City of London.

Instead we’ve chosen to highlight fascinating but little-known aspects of his  early  life leading up to the outbreak of World War Two and based on his 1990 autobiography The Little Clown.

It’s a time of post-war excitement and sudden crises and struggles, with the age marked by events like the Great Depression, the Abdication and the rise of Fascism.

The show tells of the entertainer’s experiences as a child and as an adolescent - some triumphant, others harsh and humiliating – in Reg’s own words, spoken by Devon-born award-winning actor James Cotter.

Stuart Hibberd  as pictured on the cover of his autobiography This Is London

And to give it a period flavour there are ‘news bulletins’ of the period which could have been spoken by the legendary BBC broadcaster and former Budleigh resident Stuart Hibberd.  Some of them give an insight into life in the town in the 1930s.

The show is a blend of words and music, with many of Reg’s favourite songs and well known hits of the time performed by professional actress and singer Madalaine Pearce, whose family live in East Budleigh.  Some were sung and played by Reg as a youthful pianist, and later, in the 1970s.  

They’re all classic numbers, composed in some cases by noted jazz musicians like Gus Kahn, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and Cole Porter.

We’ve been lucky enough to engage the services of acclaimed local musician Kevin Hurst as a pianist for BEFORE THE BUSES.

Do make a note in your diary and book your tickets for the show now.  It will be a memorable evening, a worthy tribute to an interesting former Budleigh resident, and a much appreciated fund-raiser for three great causes.


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1 comment:

  1. Found the original cinema quad at the shop Michael!