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Trevor George Entertainments Major Live Event session 1 review at Beverley Parks Paignton

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One thing that Anne George, the MD of Trevor George Entertainments, knows how to do is greet clients in style. Those arriving at Beverley Parks are met by the towering, gravity-defying vision of stilt artist Eloise Bradbury. They are then confronted by a very cheeky puppet in the foyer, controlled by Louis Taylor. It signals the start of the annual, two-day, three-session show, which on past experience always has a light entertainment trick or three up its sleeve. Injecting instant vitality into the showcase, and with the MD momentarily joining them on stage, was hi-energy, female dance troupe So Street. Led by the ever bubbly and constantly enthusiastic Ami Lauren this was an encouraging preamble to the main show. Not just an act, but a travelling dance company offering everything from cheerleading classes to lessons in old time music hall, this energetic ensemble appears to have focused in on a niche with some potential. For comperes, it’s never easy to pitch material for what are notoriously tricky audiences. Thankfully, experienced performer Steve Laister has enough strings to his bow to be able to fill the gaps with decent enough, if occasionally slightly juvenile routines and material.

Described as a cheeky Northern chap, the diminutive Mark-Andrew Smith, certainly knows how to work a stage, and get an audience going. Flinging off his coat at stage as he launched into a Tom Jones cover, he’s clearly a versatile singer capable of tuning his vocal chords to just about musical genre. He is very small of stature and that will always rule him out of performing genuine tributes to some strapping male vocalists, but I don’t think he’ll be losing sleep over that.

Quite what speciality act Richard Griffin intends to achieve by appearing on stage wearing the most bizarre mask and ludicrous comedy attire, I’m not sure. Initially, it doesn’t do him any favours and that’s a shame because as it transpires, he’s a slick, impressive, multi-faceted magician who works an audience – and his chosen volunteer – very well indeed. Cramming in so much magical material into a short showcase set takes real talent, and he has that in abundance.

Glamorous female duo Chique (Lisa Walker and Eloise Cole) are always going to be initially judged on their model looks by audiences, but there’s certainly enough combined vocal talent to enjoy here too. Both have appeared as leading vocalists at the Baccacombe Theatre, Devon, and that’s a gig you obviously don’t get unless you can genuinely hold a tune. If there is a criticism it’s that on stage, they look like two, solo performers as opposed to a ‘team’ and need to work on generating more synergy between each other.

With 30 years’ experience in the business, a brief appearance at Beverley Parks was never likely to trouble male vocalist/guitarist Shaun Perry. And indeed it didn’t, picking up then putting down his guitar as need be as he rattles off a Bee Gees cover, before tackling the Impossible Dream, a song I’ve rarely seen performed to its real, emotive potential. His live, acoustic set option sounds interesting, possibly more so than this perfectly enjoyable, if standard set.

International comedy specialist Steve Rawlings is a man who clearly suffers for his art. His obvious pain is our joyous gain as he juggles furniture, contorts his face to accommodate numerous ping-pong balls, then almost commits arson on stage in Paignton courtesy of a hilarious, flame-filled juggling routine. If anyone tells you that variety and spirit of the music hall is long dead, you know that person hasn’t seen Rawlings perform live. Genuises are often tortured souls – it’s just that he’s quite happy to torture himself.

Guessing the ‘level’ of any audience’s sense of humour is not easy, but at least compere Laister, teaming up with co-compere Lee Randall as Steve ‘n’ Lee for a brief skit on a Bee Gees number, is a harmless, if hardly sophisticated stab at generating some visual and vocal laughs, before male duo The Boys of Mickey Finn appear on stage. Now based in the South West, the twin brothers have been long-time show business partners and that’s very evident from the way they gel on stage. On first impression, you wouldn’t have them down as fans of the Everly Brothers, but they perform a tribute to them and I’m sure that set provides plenty of nice, retro entertainment.

Zooka & Suzie Q is described as ‘speciality and magic with a difference.’ So often such boasts never fulfil their promise at showcases, but this was stylish, captivating and immaculately presented. The act blends traditional illusion fare, such as white doves appearing at will, with really edgy touches and it’s that mix which raises this act up another level. Its boldness of presentation holds your interest and you’re never quite sure what’s coming next – and that sense of unpredictability is a priceless asset in the world of illusion.

Much more of a slow illusion burner was Mark Shortland, but sticking with his act was ultimately well worthwhile, not least to see someone totally committed to his rather bizarre craft giving his all on stage. His trump card on this occasion was the unexpected bonus of picking a prefect, mature stooge out from the audience whom he could work well off throughout his routine. At other performances he’s not going to be so lucky, but he clearly has the guile, sense of humour and consummate skills to win over and impress even non-fans of magic and illusion.

Having just seen young female vocalist Kelly Pepper at a recent showcase, little reminder of her versatile talents was required. She already boasts an impressive performing CV and is even willing to ‘learn specific song requests in advance if needed,’ according to her publicity.

It’s difficult to find enough superlatives to describe father and son, Steve and Jay Rawlings. With Rawlings senior having previously wowed the audience in his own fabulously eccentric manner, his hat juggling routine – some in wonderful slow motion – with Rawlings junior, was just sublime. Jay is clearly touched with his father’s sense of the ridiculous, and that’s to be celebrated, His main illusion all revolved around a volunteer comically aping a gunfighter which in terms of pure entertainment, was pretty slow on the draw, but it got there in the end. I’m guessing the Rawlings home is rarely a dull place to be.

Experience the mystery, says the tag line on the billing for Luke Cook Magic & Illusion, and indeed there was plenty of interesting magic and illusion performed during a set boasting rousing music, plenty of on-stage action and a fair bit of creative flair. The only down side is that, for frequent showcase attendees, a lot of the routines here were quite familiar. But, this contains just about enough twists to maintain the interest.

Vocal male duo, Noteable (Barry Leigh-James and Luke Sampson), described as a fresh and funky duo, is a perfectly acceptable, if slightly routine act. That this set covered versions of Love Train and Bruno Mars probably tells bookers all they need to know in terms of the musical versatility.

SBX is, according to their publicity, the UK and Europe’s leading urban entertainment team. Quite a claim, but few witnessing the daring creativity, physical excellence and acrobatic skills of this unique urban ensemble of street skills exponents would argue that what they witnessed was quite brilliant. From dazzling football-juggling skills through to human beat box music and mind-boggling BMX antics, this is a sure-fire winner for younger audiences anywhere in the world.

Described as Spinal Tap meets Morecambe and Wise, music/comedy double act The Ray Guns, as the showcase finale, left most pretty bewildered. Given a big build-up by his guitarist colleague the other half of the act’s appearance in an open-chested tiger onesie did have some comic effect – for all of about three seconds. Then it was downhill all the way. In truth, given the venue and the profile of the audience on the night, this act was always going to struggle.

This was a showcase with all the expected Trevor George hallmarks – something old, plenty of things new, some impressive speciality acts and not much blue. Ultimately, it was the illusion acts that stood out, namely Zooka & Suzie Q, Richard Griffin and Mark Shortland. Then, of course, there was Steve Rawlings – still juggling while his hat was ablaze on stage. Priceless.

Read Derek Smith’s review of session 2

Read Derek Smith’s review of session 3

Trevor George Entertainment website

Production Information

Beverley Parks, Paignton, November 19

Running time
3hrs 15mins
Cast
Eloise Bradbury (preshow, stilts), Gavin James (preshow, magic), Louis Taylor (preshow, puppets), Steve Laister, Lee Randall, So Street, Mark Andrew-Smith, Richard Griffin, Chique, Shaun Perry, Steve Rawlings, The Boys of Mickey Finn, Zooka & Suzie Q, Mark Shortland, Kelly Pepper, Jay Rawlings, Luke Cook Magic & Illusion, Noteable, SBX, The Ray Guns

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