12 November 2017

Freddie at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry last Friday

"That's silly!" 

Such was the half-aggrieved, half-delighted protest from an elderly lady siting near me at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry during Freddie Davies's act on Friday. 

Unable to offer much in the way of a counterargument, I sat back to enjoy the howls and squeals of suprise around me as jokes and quips hit their targets, and I was reminded that Freddie's performance alternates apparent relaxation with sudden, unexpected twists of the knife - hence those high-pitched utterances. He was in full control, a master manipulator, and, as with his appearance at the City Varieties, Leeds, this felt like a theatre, and an audience, ideally suited to his brand of psittacine zaniness. 

Freddie and Anita Harris were topping a variety bill which included harmonica virtuoso David Conway of the Three Monarchs and comedian/impressionist Adam Daye, an unbilled bonus whose Kenneth Williams was not to be sniffed at. At the end Freddie and Anita did a spot together which included some hilarious improv around a bunch of flowers unexpectedly presented by an admirer - of Anita's, as Freddie seemed slow to grasp - in addition to their planned reminiscing. It made for a delightful end to an afternoon which really seemed to revive the spirit of variety.

As Freddie's Boswell I make no claim to be a disinterested observer of such matters but what I say is: long may such silliness continue. 

And in the interests of balance allow me to quote the parting words of a gentleman sitting near me in Row E. He had been a tenor in his day, playing the clubs, and recalled the warning of a concert chairman: "I hope you're better than that Freddie Davies - he died the death here last Saturday!"

You can read more about Freddie's ups and downs, in clubland and elsewhere, in his autobiography Funny Bones - an ideal Christmas present to yourself or a loved one (also suitable for other occasions). 

Funny Bones: My Life in Comedy by Freddie Davies with Anthony Teague is available from amazon (paperback) or direct from Scratching Shed Publishing (paperback or limited edition hardback). You can get a signed copy from Freddie here. Read an extract here.