Search

Curtain soon to fall on the Press Gang

PUBLISHED: 10:16 10 October 2008 | UPDATED: 09:11 13 July 2010

Their touring circus of rural “squit” is a throwback to a golden age of home-spun entertainment.

But the Press Gang's timeless mix of humour, music, poetry, prose and wry observation on country life has rocked village halls with laughter and applause.

THEIR touring circus of rural "squit" is a throwback to a golden age of home-spun entertainment.

But the Press Gang's timeless mix of humour, music, poetry, prose and wry observation on country life has rocked village halls with laughter and applause.

Now, after a quarter of a century of raising spirits, and funds for good causes, the final curtain is about to fall on their antics - or, having heard some of the jokes, should that be antiques?

For one last time, on Sunday, October 26, two packed houses totalling 1,000 people at Cromer Pier Pavilion will watch the last ever shows, which - under the word play wizardry of their ringmaster Keith Skipper - are being tagged "The End of an Error."

The beginning of the era, however, was certainly no error - as the first show, at the same venue, was also a sell-out.

Back in the summer of 1984, inspirational Irish impresario Dick Condon, who was running the pier as well as Norwich's Theatre Royal, suggested to "Skip" he should stage a night of Norfolk entertainment at the pier pavilion.

After the successful debut, he declared "Oi tink this squit will sell" remembered Mr Skipper.

"I had a suspicion some home-made Norfolk humour, with a bit of squit and polish culture added in, would work - but I never realised it would turn into a 25 year safari," he added.

That safari has taken them to hundreds of varied venues across Norfolk, with occasional "missionary work" in Suffolk.

The Press Gang's efforts have helped venues fill their coffers, and since 1999 have raised thousands of pounds for the Eastern Daily Press We Care appeal.

They have played in theatres, village halls, community centres, even country houses. The cast has changed and evolved over the years, but the show has not veered from its popular recipe of humour, song, music, poetry and readings - with a liberal dusting of Norfolk dialect.

Performers sit on the stage throughout, awaiting their turn in the spotlight, with proceedings glued together by Mr Skipper's web of wit and bucolic wisdom.

Acts range from singer Danny Platton with his signature Delia's Dumplings singalong, and Ian Prettyman's a capella seafaring songs, to the meanderings of "the Gal Liza" Austrin, and quick-fire gags of Pat Nearney and Colin Burleigh.

Things have not always gone smoothly. Some "out takes" in the souvenir programme reveal contending with leaking roofs, emergency stages built from potato boxes, changing behind "troshing" machines, cast members falling asleep on stage and getting lost on the way to remote rural gigs.

Mr Skipper's most memorable moments include when he fell off the stage at Broome, and the Boy Jimma (Tony Clarke) in deadpan ad lib commented "he dunt normally

dew that!"

"It has been a remarkable 25 years, and has gone so quickly," said Mr Skipper.

"There are rumours we are all off to an old folks home at Happisburgh, but the rooms aren't ready yet - so rather than retiring we are diversifying."

Various members of the troupe will be seen out in splinter groups All Preachers Great and Small and Three Parts Light and doing various tributes to the Singing Postman and the Boy John.

A few seats still remain for Cromer shows - call the box office on 01263 512485.


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the North Norfolk News. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the North Norfolk News