When A Live Show Turned Vile

In the 1900s everyone who was anyone “took in a show,” when travelling theatre groups came to town.   Then, suddenly this social tradition was threatened by a spate of poor performers.  One of the worst groups, according to The Courier, was Will Morgan’s Australian Juveniles, a troupe of variety artistes.

In Beaufort West a printer’s devil led to their show being billed as “Vaudeville Vile,” instead of “Vaudeville Live.”  However, after seeing the show, The Courier reported:  “The inaccuracy is pardonable.  This group has neither talent nor stage deportment. The first night was a flop, the second cancelled due to lack of an audience. So, the troupe could neither pay its bills, nor hall hire costs.”

Heated arguments erupted. According to The Courier: “Some actors were arrested for theft.  Others tried to leave on a Worcester-bound train without tickets. They too were arrested and did a stint in jail.”   Just as the furore died down, the troupe reappeared in Beaufort West under a new name.  One angry theatre-goer wrote to the The Courier on February 18, 1904, protesting  about “the frauds we are suddenly seeing masquerading as ‘refined Vaudeville troupes’.  Their shows are third rate, undesirable and questionable, both as regards elegance and competence.  I was shocked to see sham actors trying the honour of the stage a second time in Beaufort West.  This will ruin things for good groups.  The theatre-going public will have a surfeit of spurious histrionics and soon will not buy tickets, fearing to be duped. The Actors’ Association must save the public from these frauds, and its own good name from becoming permanently besmirched.”

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