The Palace Players perform at The Palace of Varieties
Helen Polom and Clive Dykes
The Palace Players gave their first annual performance of The Palace of Varieties in 1982. The performance was in the style of an Old Time Music Hall with a chairman who introduced a series of variety acts. It began as a one off fundraiser by some of the members of the Wivenhoe Players as part of Wivenhoe Carnival in 1982 and continued annually for a further 8 years with additional performers and back stage support.
The first 3 performances at the William Loveless Hall were directed by Brian Critchley. Lionel Bryant was the Chairman whose job it was to introduce each of the acts and to keep the audience entertained in between. The acts included, humorous monologues, skits, musical show songs and dancing.
Rehearsals took place at Brian Critchley’s barn which once stood at the corner of Tower Road.
In 1985 the performances moved to Philip Road School which was then occupied by Essex County Council Education services where adult education courses and youth services took place. The Palace Players applied to become an “adult education class” and could then rent rooms to rehearse and perform. This was a challenge as there was initially no stage. With the help of Dick Sparrow, Chris Cudmore and many others constructed a stage, complete with proscenium arch, curtains, lighting set and backdrops was created. The backdrops operated on a pulley system which allowed them to be rolled floor upwards as there was no room for them to be lowered from above. “Gas lamps” made from used Coca-Cola bottles were hung on the wall to add to the “Victorian or Edwardian” atmosphere.
The shows were incredibly popular. According to legend people would arrive by coach load from afar including local care homes. With the move to Phillip Road, a little more off the beaten track than the William Loveless Hall and with the benefit of being able to bring your own bottle, the audience were sometimes reluctant to go home and demanded many encores! After paying the rent for the hall and the cost of food provided for the audience the remainder of the ticket money supported charities. Over £20,000 was raised during this period.
The Palace of Varieties on tour!
Derek Phillips from The Quay Theatre in Sudbury was at one of the performances and invited the company to perform at The Quay. This led to Chris Cudmore and Georgina Percival being invited to take one of their acts to The British Music Hall Society in London and also a theatre in Bedford.
The last performance took place in November 1990.
Some of the members of the Palace Players
Mitch and Marg Barnard
Nikki and Brian Sinclair