An Audience with Willy Little is a live theatrical performance charting the history of fictional, avant-garde cruise-ship entertainment troupe The Navy Cut Players. Centered around the reminiscences of lead actor and comedian Willy Little (Dickie Beau), this unique collaboration celebrates and reanimates the rich tradition of music hall and Variety theatre in the Southampton region, and is a paean to its melancholy demise in the face of developing TV and radio broadcast media.
Found audio drawn from a multitude of vanished acts is the basis of the narrative, re-membered by Beau’s’ distinctive lip-synch technique, including Stanelli’s Hornchestra, The Beverley Sisters and comedians emerging from the variety stage including Morecambe and Wise, Tony Hancock, Frankie Howerd, Kenneth Williams and Harry Secombe.
An added highlight for those attending the SS Shieldhall performances will be the chance to see more of this historic cargo passenger ship, recognised as the largest working steam ship of her type in Britain. From 7pm, volunteers will be on hand to show off the traditional wheelhouse,engine room with original working steam engines and even visit the bridge, with its traditional instruments and gleaming brasswork.
An Audience with Willy Little is written and devised by Mel Brimfield and produced in collaboration with Dickie Beau and Paul Higgs, commissioned by artSOUTH.
Programmed in association with artSOUTH, The John Hansard Gallery will be hosting a solo show of Mel Brimfield, Death and Dumb, from 7 September – 2 November 2013, that will also feature fragments of the fabricated archive.
Missed one of the live performances? Watch a film insert devised by Mel Brimfield which was part of the live performance. Performed by Dickie Beau.
Image credits: Mel Brimfield, ‘Dickie Beau as Willy Little’, 2013. Courtesy the artist and Ceri Hand Gallery.
Dickie Beau as Willy Little and The Beverly Sisters from An Audience With Willy Little 2013, courtesy of Mel Brimfield and Ceri Hand Gallery. Photograph: Edward Moore’. Mel Brimfield, ‘An Audience with Willy Little’, 2013, performed by Dickie Beau on SS Shieldhall. Courtesy the artist and Ceri Hand Gallery.