1922 - 2005
(originally from the Archive of our Green Room)
A Pantomime career of over 50 years , carried on the tradition of the "Realistic " Dame of Dan Leno "Giving the character a veneer of refinement yet creating an instant rapport with children in the audience"
(David Pickering Encyclopedia of Pantomime)
We were sad to report the death of Jack Tripp on Sunday 10th July 2005 aged 83.
Jack was born in Plymouth, and spent many childhood hours at his local theatre, the Palace, Plymouth, where he and his parents made regular Monday night visits to see the weekly touring shows and pantomimes.
It was at this time that Jack took up tap dancing lessons, and after winning the Plymouth Dancing Festival took up dancing and singing as his career.
During the war he was drafted to the REME at Ashton-Under-Lyne, and was posted to the Entertainment Unit 'Stars in Battledress', working with performers like Charlie Chester and Terry Thomas.
On demobilisation he was signed up by theatrical agent Len Barry, and his first professional job was understudying Sid Field in 'Piccadilly Hayride' at the Prince Of Wales Theatre in London.
One night Jack saw Sid Field waiting in the wings at the Prince of Wales Theatre. One of the beautiful seven-feet-high showgirls passed him wearing, as Jack says, 'Just about one feather, two milk bottle tops and a five foot jewelled headdress'
'Good evening Mr. Field' she said
'Hello' said Sid. 'Working'
(The above story is taken from Roy Hudd's book of Music Hall, Variety and Showbiz Anecdotes (1993))
A year later he joined the famous 'Five Past Eight' shows in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and performed in pantomime in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Liverpool where he played comic son to Douglas Byng's Dame in 'Goody Two Shoes'. 'I learnt from one of the greatest pantomime dames in the business'.
After many summer seasons and pantomimes in Scotland, Jack moved on to the Fol De Rols, playing fourteen consecutive seasons at Eastbourne, Hastings, Torquay, Bournemouth, Scarborough, and again in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen. He also performed in 'Such is Life' with Al Read and Shirley Bassey.
His first 'South of the Border' Dame came when he was signed by Derek Salberg, and for the next fifteen years he played dame at Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Bradford, followed by seasons for Duncan Weldon's 'Triumph Productions' and for Paul Elliott's 'E&B Productions'.
His long association with Roy Hudd and Geoffrey Hughes saw Jack as Dame in Dick Whittington, Aladdin and Babes in the Wood, which he played at Sadlers Wells in 1994.
Jack was featured in the Arts Council Film 'Pantomime Dame' that was shown in cinemas around the country and on television, and appearances in both Royal Command and Royal Variety performances.
Nigel Ellacott and Jack Tripp
In 1997 he appeared alongside Joan Savage in Divorce Me Darling at the Chichester Festival.
Joan Savage and Jack Tripp in Divorce Me Darling
Jack retired to his home in Brighton, Sussex but continued, up to the very last to encourage and help up and coming pantomime dames with advice, material and suggestions for songs and 'Business'. 'What A Performer!' He will be very sadly missed by everyone in Pantoland.
The following stories are also from Roy Hudd's book of Music Hall, Variety and Showbiz Anecdotes. (1993)
Jack Tripp the immaculate, ebullient, brilliant dancing and sketch comedian, for many years with the famous 'Fol-de-rols' summer show. He is today's top pantomime dame. Jack played panto one year with Basil Brush, whose 'minder' is Ivan Owen. As usual, after a day off, the company met at the 'half hour call' to discuss what they'd been up to. Poor Ivan said 'Well, I had an awful week-end. I got home to discover we'd had burglars. They'd ransacked the entire house but do you know they didn't take a thing? Commented Jack, 'How humiliating'
Jack is the son of a Plymouth baker, and in the days B.T (before television), when radio was the only evening leisure activity, showbusiness was a mysterious world to his relations. He'd just done his first professional job and an Aunt asked him if he'd liked it.
'Oh yes', said Jack. 'it was wonderful'
'Well', replied auntie in her lovely west country drawl, 'You've always got somewhere to go at night'
Janet Brown was in a Derek Salberg pantomime with Jack at Wolverhampton. One morning Janet watched two women inspecting the front-of-house photographs.
'Oh look!' said one, 'They've got Jack Tripp again'.
'Jack Tripp?' said the other. 'Who's that?'
'You know', said her friend, 'We've seen him before- she's marvellous!'
Jack Tripp was remembered on Monday, July 18, when his funeral was held at the Downs Crematorium, Bear Road in Brighton. Among the many mourners were John Inman, Chris Haywood, Paul Holman, Anita Harris and husband Mike Margolis, Roger Redfarn, Joan Mann (Fol-de Rols), Chris Emmett, Janet Brown, Roy and Debbie Hudd, Tony Adams, Mimi Law and Ron Freeman. Both Tony Adams and Roy Hudd spoke of their memories of Jack, and 'There is Nothing Like a Dame' played at the end of the funeral. More details to follow.
Jack Tripp (1922 - 2005) Jennifer Haley remembers a great performer
On my sitting room wall I have a watercolour, taken from a production photograph. It is of the opening number of the Fol-de-Rols, circa 1960. Most of the people are unknown to me, but the central pair- the leading lady and man are quite recognisable. A tall dark haired woman and a short man- Kathleen West and Jack Tripp.
Jack did many seasons with the 'Fols' in the '50's' and '60's'. They were a marriage made in heaven. The refined gentility and class of the 'Fols' suited Jack to a Tee. It was a wonderful vehicle for all his dance items, and he was at his best in the sketches and musical numbers and witty pointe numbers.
His feed and life long partner on and off stage- Australian born Allen Christie also featured well in the 'Fols' with his dancing skills and fine tenor voice, as well as the double act with Jack.
Jack's more memorable items were 'The cause of all the trouble' and 'Holidays at home' - both musical items- dressed as rather posh tramps in broken down evening dress complete with spats, white gloves and top hats, with the company of the 'Fols'- dancing a schotishe and singing with clipped refined tones about the income tax, and not going abroad any more.
He also excelled in domestic sketches with Joan Mann, with whom he worked with in the late '40's' and '50's' in Howard & Wyndham's 'Five Past Eight' shows. Sketches like 'On his holidays' where he proceeded to arrange all their clothes and beach gear on the two rocks on stage (he was a window dresser!). His dancing items were just great. Partnered by Allen he would dance with three other couples in 'Eightsome Reel', 'Come Dancing' and it wasn't until halfway through that the audience realised the 'girl' who kept going wrong was Jack. His best, to my mind, was the double with Allen where he was a rather refined and sex-starved pianist-'Rosy Bottom', who became rather hot and bothered (Allen: 'You may be hot, but you'll NEVER be bothered!') and had to blow down her blouse when Allen put his hand on her shoulder. At Allen's request- 'Shall I sing in a monastery garden' Rosy's reply was 'Yes, if you can get the piano over the wall!' Great stuff!
Jack was born in Plymouth and came to the theatre as so many of his generation did via entertaining the troups in the Second World War. He understudied Sid Field in the West End and appeared in many reviews in Scotland and in the West End and all over the country.
He played comic in panto, but soon found his fate as Dame- and he was a wonderful dame-one of the greats in the true tradition of George Lacy, Terry Scott, Billy Dainty and Arthur Askey. He was never smutty and his costumes were superb. Always pristine- gingham dress with frills and snow-white pinny with frills, bloomers with anglais- he was an immaculate 'Mum', but he also had a wardrobe of 'Funny' costumes, always keeping up with the current fashion- 'This is my fun fur- yes, all the fun of the fur!'
I first saw Jack at the Congress Theatre Eastbourne in 1966 and I was enchanted. The next year I was in the company myself and loved dancing with him, especially in the 'Tiller' kicking routine where I kicked- next to him. We used to try and see him every year in panto- Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Bournemouth as he worked in the '60's and '70's for Derek Salberg.
His last stage appearance was in Sandy Wilson's 'Divorce Me Darling' at Chichester, and he made a huge hit in a cameo role. He was very disenchanted by 'Modern' panto, and glad to hang his 'Boobs' up and retire.
About six months ago I found a lovely old copy of 'In a monastery garden' and wrote on it 'Did you ever get the piano over the wall?'. I sent it to Jack and he sent back a card that said 'That was very funny- and yes I did!' I'm so glad he did.Jennifer Haley 13th July 2005
Jack Tripp - A Celebration
St Paul's Church, Covent Garden
Friday 28th October 2005
Jack would have loved to see a full house- and the service at St.Paul's in Covent Garden was packed to the rafters with his family, friends, admirers and colleagues from the world of pantomime.
Those arriving were greeted by Roy Hudd and his wife Debbie, and the ushers were prestigious pantomime dames Wyn Calvin and Chris Emmett, along with panto producer Paul Holman.
Among the hundreds of theatre folk attending this celebration of Jack's life were Tony Adams, Janet Brown, June Whitfield, Keith Baron, Jonathan Cecil, Bobbie Cook, Pamela Cunliffe, Joan Savage, Anita Harris and Mike Margolis. Bill Pertwee, Judy Spiers, and Paul Elliott - who produced many of the pantomimes that Jack and Roy appeared in, along with Duncan C.Weldon, Johhny Dennis, Val Fontayne (Queen Ratling), along with pantomime Dames Jeffrey Holland, Stevie Marc, Ian Adams and Chris Hayward and Bunny Jay.
Anne Sydney was there along with Anna Karen, Sheridan Morley, Taryn Kaye, Audrey and Len Howe and Keith Salberg, and it was lovely to see that Sylvia and Tony Blackler had travelled up from Jack's home town-Plymouth. Both Sylvia and Tony work at the Theatre Royal, and Sylvia had often been Jack's dresser in pantomime there over the years.
It would be impossible to list all the people in attendance at St Paul's today- From Jack's family to the many hundreds of friends - many apologies to those I have missed out from this list- it is really just a very small selection from a very packed house!
Before the start of the service the organist, Simon Gutteridge played selections from the 'Fol de Rols', including the sygnets dance from 'Swan Lake', (one of Jack's best remembered routines) and the choir from St John's Wood church, conducted by Michael Mizgailo-Cayton sang 'Nymphs and Shepherds'.
The service began with a welcome from the Revd Katherine Rumens, chaplain to the Barbican Arts Centre, while a large photograph of Jack smiled at the congregation. It was Roy who pointed out that that youthful picture of Jack was in fact taken when he was Eighty years old!
Roy Hudd began the celebration by recalling his years of working with Jack in pantomime. Roy, along with June Whitfield, Geoffrey Hughes and Keith Baron were the mainstays of many a 'Babes In The Wood' each year, produced by Paul Elliott.. Roy talked about the decade they spent together- of his wit, his humour and his warmth. Referring to the photograph he recalled the line in the panto when Jack as Dame Durden was asked his age. 'Why..I'm approaching thirty-eight!' he replied, only to be greeted with 'But from which direction?' Roy told us that Jack thought like a young man, and that his sense of fun- his 'Twinkle' was his trademark both on and off-stage.
Roy also told the story of how, one pantomime, after a break Ivan Owen (the man 'behind' Basil Brush) returned to the panto with bad news. He told Jack that while he was out his house was robbed. 'And do you know Jack- they took nothing' There was a pause..'How Humiliating!' replied Jack..
Roy went on to describe Jack's early years in pantomime with his idols Dave Willis and Douglas Byng, and that rehearsing with Jack was an education-the skills he possessed as a dancer (honed to perfection during his many seasons in the 'Fols') and his 'flirty' dame with a step ball change and a look over his shoulder.
Roy was followed by Jack's co-star in the Chichester production of 'Divorce Me Darling'- Joan Savage. Joan related how she had first worked with Jack when she was twelve years old, and then had to wait for several years before appearing with him again in his own show at Hastings and at Eastbourne in Take A Tripp. Joan described how when Jack smiled 'It was like Bonfire Night' and sang 'The Sunshine of Your Smile' as her personal tribute.
Keith Baron had the congregation laughing with his memories of working with Jack. He told how he had been a great fan of his panto dame for many years before he played the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham with Jack and Roy. His particular memories included seeing Jack in 'Robinson Crusoe' with Anita Harris some fourteen times, and of his memories of the Theatre Royal Plymouth and Sadler's Wells - his summing up of Jack was simple- 'STYLE'.
Janet Brown related stories of her holidays spent abroad with Jack and his partner Allan Christie. She recalled going on to her balcony in Majorca- it was next to Jack's balcony and seeing him standing there in a smoking jacket, his hair parted in the centre with a cigarette holder- he waited for her to come onto her balcony before launching into 'Private Lives'!- She revealed that Jack gave her more laughs than anyone she knew, with the exception of her late husband, Peter Butterworth- and how when Jack and Peter got together they would both launch into Dame routine as 'two old ladies with bad feet!'
Bill Pertwee reminded everyone of Jack's days as the principal comedian in the 'Fols', and recalled an incident in the 1950's. The tabs had caught fire, and Bill was thrown onto the stage, totally unprepared to 'cover' until the problem was sorted out. Stumbling through his ad libbed routine he finished and discovered Jack was in the wings. Jack, not wishing to be the one forced to 'ad-Lib' had fled to the foyer. 'Where were you?' asked Bill. 'I hid in the foyer- in the toilets. I knew it would be quiet there'. It was the fact that, at this point Jack was dressed as a prima Ballerina for his Swan Lake sketch- 'I didn't know whether to go in the Gents or the Ladies!'
Judy Spiers followed Bill, and recalled her pantomime with Jack She opened her 'spot' by announcing 'This is my first booking this season. Thank you Jack!'
Both she and Jack were natives of Plymouth, and between entrances he would tell Judy of his early life, growing up above the bakers shop his father owned in the Barbican Plymouth.
As a young man his dancing skills were to the fore, and he became praised in the local paper as 'Plymouth's Fred Astaire!' However, each morning before school Jack had to deliver the bread from his father's shop. He was outraged. 'Fred Astaire would NEVER do that!´'
Anita Harris recalled 'Two Crusoes, Two Whittingtons, Two Aladdins' and several 'Jacks' all spent in the company of Jack Tripp. She called him 'A Master Craftesman, a wit, and the embodiment of theatre'. Her tribute to Jack was a song from her musical 'Bertie´' about life behind the footlights.
Finally Jonathan Cecil took to the platform. Jonathan and his wife Anna Sharkey were close friends of Jack, and were constant visitors to his flat, and in communication with him to the very last. He related how, aged fifteen he went to see 'Mother Goose' at Oxford Playhouse. The star was the Comedienne Ethel Revnell (Of Revnell & West) but to him the undoubted star was the young Jack Tripp as 'Jonny', Mother Goose's son- in dungarees with 'nimble footwork and a mobile face'.
Several decades later he saw Jack now 'Elevated to dame- the best I ever saw', he praised his attack, his vitality and his dame as 'A truly believable and loveable creation'. In Jonathan's words, Jack's dame was 'Everyone's favourite Auntie', a man who was truly in love with his craft. To conclude, Jonathan read the words he had written in a newspaper article about Jack Tripp-
'Eternally young, his sense of magic untarnished, the irrepressibly droll Jack Tripp embodies the true comic spirit of Christmas past, present and future!'
28th October 2005
This page was last updated 23rd July 2011