On Monday I took a trip down memory last and drove my father to Great Yarmouth the see Cannon and Ball at the Britannia Pier Theatre. Towards the end of their second half act Booby Cannon talked about their 50 year partnership in showbusiness and my mind drifted back to their heyday and indeed Great Yarmouth’s as a Seaside resort. In the early 80’s Cannon and Ball celebrated 20 years in showbusiness with back to back summer seasons at the North Pier, Blackpool and then the Britannia Pier, Great Yarmouth 3 months, six days a week, two shows a night with a matinee on a Wednesday and Saturday, sell out Box office breaking summer seasons records and that visual memory of being a part of a second house crowd, we always went to the second house, having to be parted to let the first house out.
Gone are the full summer seasons, they are appearing in Great Yarmouth on just two nights during the Summer, gone are the variety acts that used to pack the first half of their shows and gone too are the full houses, just as those week long holidays in slightly ropey boarding houses and hotels to the English seaside. Perhaps today also gone is variety as their practice it, but what is not gone is their sheer brilliance and love of what they do. Their act is bang up to day with what few jokes they do tell, for their act was never build on jokes, being bang up to date, with Google, facebook and my space mentioned with along with Booby Ball knowingly turning to the audience suggesting I’m saying these things but know not of what I speak.
Their act is of course a mixture of the putting down of the little man of Abbott and Costello and the taking down of the sophisticated man of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis but they are perhaps the greatest double act this county has seen in a blood line of great double acts. From Flannigan and Allen, to Jewel and Warriss, Mike and Bernie Winters and Morecombe and Wise, in my youth I had the privilege to see both Mike and Bernie Winters and Morecambe and Wise live on stage but only watched the others on video. Of course Morecombe and Wise conquered television in a way no other variety theatre double act did or has since including Cannon and Ball; but Cannon and Ball command the stage like no act before them, comedy, pathos, audience participation and genuine friendship, today they have distilled 50 years of material into the sort of double act comedic timing only belonging to the greats. There are today great comedians from Jimmy Carr to Peter Kay but perhaps along with Ken Dodd, Cannon and Ball are the end of a Era.
At the end of their 75 minute tour de force on Monday the audience spontaneously rose to its feet in salute to greatness, if you ever get the chance go see true comic genius at work, do go.