The Plastic Hippo

May 25, 2010

Ray Alan

Filed under: Uncategorized — theplastichippo @ 1:44 am

There was a time when ventriloquism was a show business mainstay of what used to be called variety. Bizarrely, the voice throwing trick was even used on radio in the 50`s when Peter Brough and his dummy Archie Andrews attracted 15 million listeners. Sadly, Walsall missed out on vent acts and other music hall entertainment in the 50`s and 60`s because then, and now, there is no viable theatre here which is lamentable for a town the size of Walsall.

Ray Alan, possibly the greatest British vent, has died at the age of 79 after a short and sudden illness. His genius lay in his understanding of changing media and his creation of the Lord Charles character. It did not matter if vents moved their lips in variety theatres because anyone beyond the third row would not notice. Television, however, changed all that.

Aware of the TV close-up, Alan made his upper-class toff dummy permanently drunk allowing him to voice slurred and sometimes incomprehensible words and phrases and further allowed him to satirise the attitudes of the aristocracy. Alan was asked if he felt upstaged by the dummy and replied by saying:

“I’m delighted to say yes! It’s just what I planned, I can sit back and say nothing and let him take the blame.”

So what now for the Lord Charles dummy? It is surely incomprehensible that, in this day and age, that a tall, handsome man could put words into the mouth of an upper class toff puppet. Maybe Nick Clegg should attempt to buy the doll on e-bay. It would give him more credibility.

Ray Alan was once asked what was the secret of great ventriloquism. He answered with a single word; “Gratice”.

David Cameron might prefer a gottle of geer rather than an arm up his back that makes his lips move. Whatever the outcome, let us hope that Ray Alan rests in peace and allows Lord Charles to give a final reminder that our leader is a silly arse.

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