Nod and a wink brings music hall back to Wilton's
PUBLISHED: 18:50 17 July 2008 | UPDATED: 13:27 05 October 2010
THE sound of laughter fills Wilton's Music Hall again as a new show opens tonight (Thursday) to recapture the lost art of variety theatre. Wink the Other Eye' is the first proper music hall show to be held in the historic building since 1888, when it closed its doors to audiences and became a respectable Methodist mission
THE sound of laughter fills Wilton's Music Hall again tonight (Thurs) as a new show opens to recapture the lost art of variety theatre, writes Laura Aylett.
'Wink the Other Eye' is the first proper show to be held in the historic building since 1888, when it closed its doors to audiences and became a respectable Methodist mission.
Seven actors play a range of 50 characters while telling the story of a couple trying to make it in the cut-throat world of Edwardian theatre.
Speciality acts are featured, including tightrope walkers, trapeze artists and escapologists.
Music Hall was the entertainment of London's working classes from the 1850s and later Variety theatre until audiences turned to cinema in the 1930s, then to television in the 1950s and 60s.
But the music stage left an indelible mark on British and American culture, with stars like Charlie Chaplin, George Formby and Ken Dodd starting out on the circuit.
Many of the sing-along songs we now think of as traditional Cockney 'knees-up' tunes were originally from the Music Hall.
Wink the Other Eye features such favourites as Don't Dilly Dally, Burlington Bertie From Bow and I Was Standing at The Corner of The Street.
Rowdy participation was the norm as Victorian and Edwardian audiences sat around tables and drank alcohol while watching the performances, something Wilton's hopes to recreate.
The theatre that lay derelict for decades just off Whitechapel's Wellclose Square was saved from demolition in the 1960s by Sir John Betjeman.
The building, now a World Heritage site, serves today as an arts and community centre.
But parts are crumbling and £2 million is needed to restore it to its former glory.
Wink The Other Eye runs at Wilton's in Grace's Alley until Saturday, August 16.
Tickets: £17.50 from the box office, 020-7702 2789, or online at: