Juggler's World: Vol. 42, No. 1

Flash Back

Henri French


Explanatory Programmes from The Strand Magazine

(The Strand Magazine carried descriptions of vaudeville acts in great detail. Here is a description of the act of Henri French, a performer who appeared at the Empire Theatre in London on June 18, 1901.)

Stage carpeted and furnished as drawing room, wings closed with curtain screens, small entrance to stage at rear. The entertainment is divided into two parts - comic juggling and a travesty on a Chinese magician.

French, attired in ridiculous costume with red wig and dilapidated top hat, enters on one small bicycle wheel, running around the stage. Hat falls off and a large notice on his back reads "There's hair."

French rings very large bell standing in center of stage, attendant enters and enacts funny business while performer juggles a plate and balances same on nose. French juggles four odd objects (plate etc.), two in each hand - dexterous dropping and catching of plate.

Throws hat, plate, small ball of paper. Catches hat on head and paper ball under hat, lifting hat from behind.

Small table, 15 inches square laid with cloth and crockery. French removes cloth with a quick jerk without disturbing crockery. Attendant attempts to do the same at table on opposite side of stage and smashes everything. Exasperated, he goes to opposite table and proceeds to deliberately smash and pitch its contents at French.

French lights candle and pockets lighted match, jerks cigar from table into mouth, lights cigar at candle held in right hand, extinguishes candle by causing it to describe a half-turn in air and to fall back into candlestick. Juggles candlestick on arm, and finally juggles candle, candlestick and table.

Jerks top hat from seat of chair on to head, from head on to peg of hat stand. Throws hat from foot to head. Juggles cigar, hat and umbrella. Lays cigar on hat, then throws hat - cigar goes in mouth and hat on head.

Holding umbrella at the center with hat on ferrule end, jerks hat, causing it to roll along body of umbrella and right forearm and to fall on the handle of umbrella. Throws hat from handle to head and jerks it on to peg of hat stand.

Juggles egg, ball and plate; then throws egg very high and catches on plate several time without breaking egg. Breaks egg on plate to show real. Attendant catches smell of egg, makes grimace and lights a cigar. French also endeavours to light cigar at electric light, which goes out. He then rubs light, as he would a match, on seat of trousers and it relights.

Ring bell to recall attendant. Puts large jar and a quantity of plates on end of pole and attempts to balance on head, but all fall to ground when attendant shouts. French throws plates etc. at the attendant, who retires hurriedly. Rings bell again.

Throws three black wood balls, about five inches diameter, occasionally letting one bounce on floor. Suddenly one hits him on the head and he appears stunned, but eventually goes on throwing the balls until struck again. When he throws all three one by one violently on the stage, the first two are wood but the third, which struck him, turns out to be India rubber.

Juggles iron wash stand, basin and jug and afterwards pours a quantity of water from jug into basin. (Applause)

Throws three revolvers, firing them at same time, and eventually blows off wig, revealing himself as French. Speaks for the first time, announcing that he will give an imitation of the greatest Chinese conjurer.

Four attendants, attired in Chinese costume, enter and clear away mess from juggling show by lifting it bodily away in carpet - afterwards putting down a fresh carpet.

French enters with rod and line and works the fish catching trick. (This is a bit overdone at this date, and gives one the idea that the Eastern conjurers are no more prolific than their Western confreres. Fish catching and back hand coin and card palming are now stale, in fact, worked and exposed to death.)

Flash Back / Index, Vol. 42, No. 1 / jis@juggling.org
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