1956, The show that never was

5th November, 1956

Perhaps it was just as well that 1955 had two Royal Variety Performances, for the 1956 one has gone down in history as the Royal Variety Performance that never was. All the performers and theatre staff were busy in rehearsals, when Val Parnell called a halt to make an announcement, 4 hours before curtain-up.

He informed them that he had just heard from the Palace that the evening's Royal Variety Performance had been cancelled due to the mounting Suez Canal crisis and that at that very moment British troops were landing in Port Said, Egypt. The Soviet Union was threatening to retaliate with rockets unless British and French forces accepted a ceasefire. Her Majesty quite rightly felt it in-appropriate to attend.

There was widespread disappointment amongst the cast; the Crazy Gang had specially put together a burlesque of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh and John Mills were visually disappointed; an emotionally charged Liberace broke down on the stage in tears, whilst Gracie Fields did what she could to comfort others in the cast as deeply affected. However, it was the Cockney comedian Jimmy Wheeler who restored flagging spirits when he took out his violin and announced "I've rehearsed this bloody act for a fortnight so somebody's gonna hear it" and promptly went into his full routine, adding several gags that would never have found their way into the show proper!