27 Jugglers And A Fire-breathing Dragon - A History Of Speciality Acts

Back in the days of 'variety', some of the most important performers on the theatre bills were not the star names - the comedians and singers - but the so-called speciality acts - the fillers-in, the ones booked to entertain the audience in between the headliners.

The speciality acts were booked to ensure that the audience remained in their seats, and so the more exotic, painful, dangerous or outright peculiar their act might be, the better.

There were acts which you might more readily expect to see in a circus, such as lion-tamers and a trained duck troupe, as well as any number of jugglers, diminutive contortionists, strongwomen, siffleurs and magicians.

These one-act wonders made a good living out of their strange talents, but with the advent of TV entertainment, their popularity waned.

Comic and writer Paul Harris presents.

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Back in the days of 'variety', some of the most important performers on the theatre bills were not the star names - the comedians and singers - but the so-called speciality acts - the fillers-in, the ones booked to entertain the audience in between the headliners.

The speciality acts were booked to ensure that the audience remained in their seats, and so the more exotic, painful, dangerous or outright peculiar their act might be, the better.

There were acts which you might more readily expect to see in a circus, such as lion-tamers and a trained duck troupe, as well as any number of jugglers, diminutive contortionists, strongwomen, siffleurs and magicians.

These one-act wonders made a good living out of their strange talents, but with the advent of TV entertainment, their popularity waned.

Comic and writer Paul Harris presents.