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The Lions Comiques were the true monarchs of the early music hall, epitomising a sometimes startling freedom of expression that characterised these new entertainment venues. What's more, every Lion - every Lioness - was an original, their turns unique to each performer, each singing only the best songs by the best writers. As a result, these stars of Victorian England's nascent variety - Alfred Vance, George Leybourne, G.H. Macdermott, Arthur Lloyd, Bessie Bellwood, Jenny Hill and Nelly Power - had unique powers over their audiences. They were not play acting. Their carefully graded candour and forthrightness was focused directly upon their audiences, especially the gallery. Working-class audiences felt that the Lions spoke for them. They were always poised for laughter and when the Lion roared, the gallery responded in kind. Thus, they were aped and admired, they set the fashions in the streets and they lived life to the full, both on and off the stage. A fourth generation performer himself, Peter Honri traces the story of these inimitable performers - the Lions Comiques of the music hall stage.
About the author:
The fourth generation of a music hall family, Peter Honri made his stage debut as a five-year-old 'dancing policeman' at Richmond Theatre in 1935 making his full variety debut at Collins' Music Hall in 1948. In 1962, Bernard Miles cast him in The Bedbug at the Mermaid Theatre. Peter subsequently appeared in Blitz!, Beyond the Fringe, Servant of Two Masters, Belle Starr, Anything Goes, Heidi, Ride! Ride!, Our Man Crichton, Annie, Sondheim's Follies and many, many more. He has also made numerous TV appearances and, in the film Oliver! brought his concertina to far larger audiences than was possible for his music-hall grandfather, Percy Honri.
Greenwich Exchange Category: History
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