As part of our planning for the Burlesque Blitz at the Empire, we're trying to track down acts who performed at the original Empire during the forties
Channel 4 featured the following interview a few years ago
[quote:b6fd4e3213]How did you start off in the theatre?
My mother used to be a flying trapeze artist and my father was managing the Empire Theatre in Belfast. And in a way with them being in the theatre we were sort of minor celebrities in a way because there was no television and we were asked to do many things. For example, when I was a young child about nine, ten, eleven I would be asked to come and christen some of the animals in the zoo, which was very nice. And then the war broke out - the Second World War - that was in September, just before my eleventh birthday and lots of children were all evacuated because people were worried about the place being bombed. And of course my mother and father instead of having me being evacuated, sent me off with a circus to travel around the Republic of Ireland because it was neutral during the war.
Did you not find it strange, working in the circus?
Yes, it was strange but it was great fun you know, and I learnt how to walk the tightrope when I was there as well and how to ride horses bareback. So it was really great fun for me - I loved it all.
So what was the theatre like that you worked at?
It was a lovely old theatre with lovely old architecture - sort of Indian style but unfortunately and tragically now Clare, itís been pulled down. Itís such a tragedy but at least there are two theatres still left in Ireland Thereís the Opera House in Belfast and thereís also the Gaiety in Dublin which is a lovely one...
Well Clare, this is really like what the old Empire in Belfast used to be like - the lovely red velvet seats and all that lovely plaster work.
Sounds great - if you know anyone who would like to share their memories with Penguin People, please ask them to get in touch ( this being Belfast, I am hoping it is the normal one degree of separation that connects everyone in the arts ).
Relive the spirit of the 1940s when Bacall asked Bogart if he knew how to whistle, when a Brief Encounter had nothing to do with underwear, and when the stage of the Belfast Empire kept more than the home fires burning.
Penguin People present a tribute to the indomitable war time spirit that kept Belfastís opulent Empire Music Hall open during the dark days of the blitz.
The cabaret-style atmosphere will transport you back in time, while the stars of the silver screen flash before your eyes, with archive news-reels, movie trailers and classic wartime adverts. Our luscious usherettes will ensure your comfort and give you the opportunity to buy your very own burlesque accoutrements.
As the darkness of the night falls, barrage balloons and air-raid sirens will signal the start of the show, the spotlights will illuminate a galaxy of stars, and musicians, magicians, and a plethora of performers will entertain you with a mixture of the romantic, the poignant, the cheeky and the downright hilarious.