Roy Hudd and Christopher Green discover the perils of applause in a comic conversation at Wilton’s Music Hall, where together they tell the lost story of music hall idol Fred Barnes.
Meet the ‘wavy-haired, blue-eyed Adonis’, singer Fred Barnes, whose hit song, The Black Sheep of The Family, and outrageous appearance both made him a star and were the architects of his downfall. Barnes topped the national circuits in 1911 through into the twenties, and at the height of his fame, he would be seen about town in his trademark white suit and hat, with a pet marmoset on his shoulder.
But Fred’s tragic family history, sudden success and enormous wealth were too hard to handle. His addictions and flamboyant offstage adventures proved his ruin, and after being branded ‘a menace to His Majesty’s fighting forces’, Fred was banned from the stage by his employers.
He fell spectacularly from grace, brought down by a shockingly modern range of addictions: sex, shopping, alcohol, and a need for celebrity. At the pinnacle of his fame in the 1920s he was fabulously wealthy and sported the height of extravagant fashion with a marmoset on his shoulder. He sold his memoir ‘How Success Ruined Me’ to the papers, but by the mid 1930s he was singing for pennies in Southend pubs – now with a chicken perched on his shoulder.
Chris and Roy play out (and argue about, and rewrite) the vital moments from Fred’s private and public life, while reflecting frankly on the perils of applause, addiction and identity in their own performing lives – with jokes, chat and songs.
Roy Hudd, OBE, died in March 2020.
Words and music by Christopher Green
with John Orchard on the piano