A concert party, also called a Pierrot troupe, is the collective name for a group of entertainers, or Pierrots, popular in Britain during the first half of the 20th century. The variety show given by a Pierrot troupe was called a Pierrot show.
Concert parties were travelling shows of songs and comedy, often put on at the seaside and opening with a Pierrot number.
In 1891, the singer and banjoist Clifford Essex, inspired by Michel Carré fils' pantomime L'enfant prodigue (1890), which he had seen at the Prince of Wales' Theatre (of the latter known as the Scala Theatre) in London,resolved to create a troupe of English Pierrot entertainers. Thus began the tradition of seaside Pierrots in pointed hats and black or coloured costumes who sang, danced, juggled, and joked on the piers of Brighton, Margate and Blackpool from the 1890s until the 1950s. The style of performance attracted artists from music hall and variety theatre. Some performers, such as Neville Kennard, were known as specialists in the field.
Immensely popular in Great Britain from the 1920s to the 1940s, concert parties were also formed by several countries' armed forces during the First and Second World Wars. During the Second World War, the British Armed Forces' concert party became known as the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA), later succeeded by the Combined Services Entertainment (CSE).
As other forms of entertainment (particularly television) replaced variety shows in general, concert parties largely died out during the 1950s. This form of entertainment has been described by Roy Hudd as long-gone and much lamented.
The most famous fictitious concert party outside the armed forces was The Good Companions in J. B. Priestley's eponymous novel. In the novel Sylvia Scarlett , the main characters (Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn in the film version) form a concert party, The Pink Pierrots. A Pierrot troupe features strongly in Enid Blyton's 1952 children's book, The Rubadub Mystery.
Roy Hudd, OBE was an English comedian, actor, presenter, radio host, author and authority on the history of music hall entertainment.
The Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA) was an organisation established in 1939 by Basil Dean and Leslie Henson to provide entertainment for British armed forces personnel during World War II. ENSA operated as part of the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes. It was superseded by Combined Services Entertainment (CSE) which now operates as part of the Services Sound and Vision Corporation (SSVC).
Reginald Alfred Varney was an English actor, entertainer and comedian best known for his television roles on The Rag Trade and On the Buses, appearing in the latter's three spin-off film versions.
Ivy Benson was an English musician and bandleader, who led an all-female swing band. Benson and her band rose to fame in the 1940s, headlining variety theatres and topping the bill at the London Palladium, and became the BBC's resident house band.
Jack Tripp was an English comic actor, singer and dancer who appeared in seaside variety shows and revues and became best known for his many performances as a pantomime dame.
Harry Gabriel "H. G." Pélissier was an English theatrical producer, composer, and satirist. He presented a number of theatrical productions during the Edwardian era, such as 'The Follies'.
George Wood Bamlett OBE, known professionally as Wee Georgie Wood, was a British comic entertainer and actor who appeared in films, plays and music hall revues. He had a lengthy career of over fifty years, based on appearing childlike even in adulthood.
John Randolph Sutton was an English singer and comic entertainer in music hall and variety shows.
Norman Edward Vaughan was an English comedian who led a long and successful career in the television and theatre, appearing occasionally in films.
Harry Gordon was a popular Scottish entertainer, comedian and impressionist, touring throughout Scotland and further afield. From the 1920s through the 1950s Gordon also produced a large number of recordings, including several under assumed names. He was known as the Laird of Inversnecky, a fictional Scottish town he used in his comic routines.
Stars in Battledress(SiB) was an organisation of entertainers who were members of the British Armed Forces during World War II.
The Good Companions is a novel by the English author J. B. Priestley.
Gladys Mabel Morgan was a Welsh comedian, billed variously as the 'Queen of Comedy' or 'the Queen of Laughter', and was renowned for her toothless, ear-splitting, infectious laugh.
Leslie Fuller was a British comedy film actor. He was married to the actress Nancy Bates. Albert Leslie Fuller was born in 1888 at 14 Pollard Row, Bethnal Green, London, although many biographies wrongly state Margate, as he had a lifelong association with this seaside town. His father was Albert Fuller and his mother was Amelia Lipley. In 1891 his father was running a coffee house, but by 1901 he was a self-employed printer and as a boy, Leslie would help his father in the business. From an early age Leslie became obsessed with show business and started performing in a small schoolboy minstrel troupe. Blessed with a voice of sorts and with a repertoire of only three songs, he joined a troupe playing on Brighton beach. He then moved on to join a troupe in Maidenhead, playing in a small marquee by the river and during the regatta on the river itself in a small punt! Between 1909-1912 both Leslie and Dave Fuller performed in ‘The Silloth Pierrots’ at Silloth in Cumbria. In 1914 at the end of a summer season in Weston-Super-Mare, Leslie married one of his fellow entertainers a 26-year-old dancer and male impersonator Beatrice Witham.
Neville Kennard was an England actor, comedian and writer, most active in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. He was a prolific writer of sketches and a specialist in variety entertainment, who was one of the most famous names associated with the concert party form of entertainment.
Donald Ralph Smoothey was a British stage actor, variety entertainer and comic.
Rex Jameson was an English comedian and female impersonator known for his creation and stage persona Mrs Shufflewick. After radio and television success in the 1950s and early 1960s, his career declined sharply because of his alcohol abuse. He returned to a niche celebrity in the 1970s in his drag act at The Black Cap, Camden Town, London.
Norman Stuart Long was an English singer, pianist and comic entertainer, who was one of the earliest stars of BBC Radio..
Bobbie Kimber was an English ventriloquist, who performed as a female impersonator.
Jack Kodell was an American stage magician.