Archive for the ‘Empire Theatre’ Category

Howard Brothers at Newcastle Empire

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Newcastle Weekly Journal and Courant of 27 February 1909 describes a performance by the Howard Brothers at Newcastle Empire:

Howard Brothers at Newcastle Empire article from Newcastle Weekly Journal and Courant 27 February 1909 - From Newcastle City Library

From Newcastle City Library

In the 1996 Andrew Conway posted an extract from Variety Magazine of 23 December 1911 in this rec.juggling post. It describes the routine beautifully:


There are many players of banjo touring the vaudeville circuits, and banjo playing acts must posess exceptional features in order to be classed among the Novelties. The exacting demands of modern vaudeville fall most heavily
upon acts of this sort. The Howard Brothers are far in advance of all other exponents of this form of entertainment, and the musical possibilities of the banjo have never been shown to greater advantage than by these young men who play classical and popular airs, and give pleasing imitations, and cap their performance by juggling the banjos like Indian clubs between them, and at the same time playing popular airs with wonderful precision and real art.

Andrew adds “The illustration shows the two brothers standing back to back and passing
eight banjos. Now that’s what I call entertainment…”

Derenda and Green at Newcastle Empire

Friday, October 29th, 2010

The Newcastle Weekly Journal and Courant described the “amusing and clever juggling act of Derenda and Green” on 31 July 1909:

Derenda and Green Article Newcastle Weekly Journal and Courant 31 July 1909 - From Newcastle Central Library

From Newcastle Central Library

It’s not a fascinating article by any means – but after a bit of searching I realised that just 6 months later these two young performers would be tragically dead.  This site about the wreck of the General Chanzy as she sailed from Marseille to Algiers on 10 February 1910 tells the story in Spanish – click here to read the google translation. 139 out of the 140 passengers and crew were killed when she sank, including eleven performers who were travelling to perform at Algiers casino; the others are listed in the third column of this page from New York’s Sun newspaper from 13 February 1910.

The biographies of Leo Derenda and the mysteriously named Mr Green from the General Chanzy site give some intersting detail about their histories and the act – they’re well worth a read.

Edit: Thanks to The Void for the correction to the Mr Green link

Emeline Ethardo at Newcastle Empire

Friday, August 20th, 2010

 Readers of rec.juggling may recognise today’s material – it’s the very first stuff that I found when I started looking for  material about the history of  juggling in the North East. This advertisement appeared in the 27 July 1895 edition of the Gateshead Guardian: 

Emeline Ethardo advert - Gateshead Guardian, July 27 1895

Gateshead Guardian, July 27 1895

Emeline Ethardo, “A distinct Novelty, A Juggler, a Contortionist, a Dancer, an Acrobat, an Instrumentalist. Something new” was on the bill at the Newcastle Empire Theatre for the week of 29 July 1893. Also of note on the bill is the second appearance on this blog of Conway and Leland, “One-legged Acrobats” who also appeared with WC Fields in Sunderland in 1908, billed as “Cheerful Monopedes”! 

Emeline is listed in Michale Kilgariff’s book ‘Grace, Beauty and Banjos: Peculiar Lives and Strange Times of Music Hall and Variety Artistes’ as a juggler, which suggests a link with Signor Ethardo – the Spiral Ascensionist (he used a walking globe and climbed enormous spiral tracks) – although he was possibly as a mentor or trainer rather than a relative.  The excellent  also has her listed as appearing at the opening of the Metropolitan Theatre, Paddington, London in 1897. 

But the only information we have about the performance comes from the review from the Gateshead Guardian in the week following the advert above. On 3 August 1895 they say: 

The Empire, Newcastle
There has been this week an excellent company at the Empire, and full houses. The chief attraction is Mr Edwin Boyd, the favourite London comedian, whose songs were rendered in a very talking manner, and were received with the greatest enthusiasm, especially his song “Life in the East End of London”. Miss Emmeline Ethardo pleased the audience immensely with her clever displays of juggling and contortion feats. Conway & Leland, the one legged acrobats, met with a great reception with their clever tumbling, etc. The Albert & Edmund troupe provide a highly amusing sketch, “The Locket”. The other artistes were Edith Yorke, vocalist; the Waldrons (Joe and Etty), burlesque artistes and dancers; Lily Langtree, comedienne; the Fairy Four, vocalists and dancers; and Arthur F. Cecil, mimic; all of whom gained the cordial approval of the audience. 

The Zanettos and the Korosko Bale Sisters

Friday, August 6th, 2010

Firstly – my apologies for missing a post last time, hopefully this double dose will make up for it!

The Zanettos, “World-renowned jugglers and equilibrists” are advertised to appear at the Newcastle Empire on the front cover of the Gateshead Guardian of 31 August 1895:

The Zanettos at Newcastle Empire 31 August 1895 - Gateshead Guardian Advert

From Gateshead Central Library

As you can see from their review a week later (published on 7 September 1895) there’s scant information apart from describing their routine as “clever”, and misspelling their name:

The Zanettos at Newcastle Empire 7 Sept 1895 - Gateshead Guardian article

From Gateshead Central Library

However, a bit of Googling has revealed a real treat. is a treasure trove of information about the Bale family who were the core of the Zanettos. The Posters, Press and Programmes page has some great material that fans of this site will enjoy, but for me the best stuff is on – which includes an interview with Edwin Bale published while he was performing in Newcastle.

The interview describes how the performers came to impersonate Japanese jugglers (with some language that’s probably most kindly described as “of its time”) which leads me onto the second half of this weeks double-header. At the Gaiety Theatre of Varieties in Hartlepool, for the week of 11 August 1902 the Sisters Korosko Bale, “Double Japanese Jugglers, Balancers &c” appeared, along with their “splendid performing pigeons”:

Sisters Korosoko Bale Poster

From Tyne & Wear Archives

The name Bale associated with ‘Japanese’ juggling must mean that they’re linked to the Zanettos, but I’ve not been able to confirm the exact nature of the connection. However I did find the abstract for a academic conference presentation that refers to the Zanettos and the Korosko Bale troupe, and has some more pictures of the Zanettos. Scroll right down to the bottom of the page to find a link to the presentation slides.

I hope you enjoy all that linked material as much as I did.

Frank Sylvo

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

I’ve not been researching for this blog for very long but one name keeps popping up. Frank Sylvo isn’t well known today, but he was clearly well respected by the promoters of his era.The earliest appearance that I’ve found isn’t from North East England but the Palace, Greenwich, London – strangely enough the article is in the New York Clipper and the date isn’t made clear, but it seems to be April 1901 or 1902. He also appeared in Empire Palace Theatre, Dublin in 1904, as advertised in the Evening Telegraph; and at the opening of the Grand Theatre of Varieties, Birmingham and is listed on the special silk commemorative programme for this event, which is held in the Victoria and Albert museum.

I’ve first found him in the North East on 25 January 1909 at the Sunderland Empire:

Frank Sylvo at the Sunderland Empire Poster - From the Tyne & Wear Archive

From the Tyne & Wear Archive

All these venues have one thing in common – they were all owned by Moss Empires. This was the largest chain of variety theatres in the UK, and they clearly liked what Frank had to offer, despite the rather lukewarm review that he received in the Newcastle Journal and Courant of 23 January 1909 after he’d appeared at the Newcastle Empire. All they could manage to say was that he was “quite acceptable”:

Frank Sylvo at the Newcastle Empire review - From Newcastle City Library

From Newcastle City Library

Despite that faint praise he was still working in the Empires empire 14 years later; he was back at the Sunderland Empire on 2 July 1923:

Frank Sylvo at the Sunderland Empire Poster 1923 - From the Tyne & Wear Archive

From the Tyne & Wear Archive

I look forward to seeing where else he shows up!

Tom Hearn and Paul’s Juggling Girls

Friday, March 26th, 2010

The week of Monday October 11 1909 was a good one for the audiences at the Sunderland Empire as they were treated to two juggling acts on the programme that week:   

Tom Hearn & Paul's Juggling Girls at the Sunderland Empire Poster - From the Tyne & Wear Archive

From the Tyne & Wear Archive

Paul’s Juggling Girls present “The Swells at Practice”, which is  “A dainty juggling act, introducing a wonderful exhibition of club manipulation, with original effects”. Unfortunately I’ve not been able to find any description of their routine, but they travelled as far as New York with their performances; the New York Times records them arriving in New York to perform on the Morris Vaudeville Circuit on 30 January 1910 (see the pdf article, linked from this page at the New York Times. We can assume that their first performance was at the American Music Hall, as this pdf article, also dated 30 January (linked from this page at the New York Times) mentions them performing in that venue.   

Tom Hearn & Paul's Juggling Girls at the Sunderland Empire Poster (Detail) - From the Tyne & Wear Archive

From the Tyne & Wear Archive

 I have found more information about Tom Hearn’s act. He’s billed as “the Laziest Juggler on Earth” and this description from the Newcastle Weekly Journal and Courant, from earlier in the year, on 6 February 1909 explains why:  

Tom Hearn at the Newcastle Empire - article from the Newcastle Weekly Journal and Courant - from Newcastle City Library

From Newcastle City Library

Mr Tom Hearn has fairly earned his title of the “laziest juggler on earth”. He is also the funniest. From start to finish of his entertainment he is too lazy to complete any of his tricks. He is discovered in bed as the curtain rises, in a comfortably furnished bedroom. He emerges from bed, and practices in a meek-and-mild manner with little dumb-bells and punching a diminutive ball. Other tricks follow, with lamps and articles of furniture and vertu, all of which get broken owing to Tom’s inborn laziness to properly negotiate his different tricks. He every now and then returns to bed in complete exhaustion. The turn caused roars of laughter, and is better than ever.  

An interesting gimmick for sure – and he had a high billing at the Sunderland Empire so he must have been well received.