Ullo! revue, 1924-25
In 1924 Bruce Bairnsfather was approached to write a music hall revue which could tour the provinces of England. After "considerable persuasion" he agreed, and the result was "Ullo!" - "a very unconventional production, with scenes and incidents of a most novel nature."
Although a 'Supervising Producer' was engaged, the entire production was 'Personally Supervised by Bruce Bairnsfather.' The scenery was designed and constructed from models made by him, and his "personality and powers of invention are prominent throughout." Bairnsfather's wife also played a major role in the production, being responsible for designing and supervising all the dresses worn in the show.
"Ullo!" opened at the Hippodrome Theatre, Birkenhead on 13 October 1924. Inevitably, Old Bill had a part in the proceedings, and was played by Johnny Danvers, who gacve a "really clever impersonation throughout the show." The production was fifteen scenes long, and included a variety of musical numbers and appearances by The "Ullo" Girls, a "troupe of talented dancers."
Having commenced its provincial tour, "Ullo!" enjoyed mixed success. Bruce Bairnsfather later expressed the opinion that "it was too pictorial, and lacked sufficient broad comedy." This view was shared by the shows agents and bookers, and before long "it was suggested that a comedian with a big name" be engaged. As a result, Billy Bennett joined the show in February 1925 at a salary of £100 per week, which although "undoubtedly a draw...added to an already expensive show and had a dubious financial result on profits." From July 1925 Bennett was replaced by Martin Adeson, who had previously toured as Old Bill in "The Better 'Ole" in 1918-19 and 1920.
As time went on, suggestions were made regarding taking the show to a London theatre, where it might have its "best chance" of success. In due course this was arranged, and after more than 40 weeks on the road the show closed in September 1925, for a complete overhaul prior to opening in London. A month later, on 28 October 1925 the revamped production, now titled "Carry On Sergeant" opened at the New Oxford Theatre in London - the very same theatre (as 'The Oxford') where Bairnsfather's 1917 war play "The Better 'Ole" had achieved such incredible success, 8 years earlier.
Click here to read more about the fortunes of "Carry On Sergeant" at the New Oxford Theatre.