1. VAUDE AND VERNE COMEDY AND PERFORMANCE STYLE:
1.1. Jokes: The Theatre Magazine's editor X-Ray writes in 1915 about the difference between Vaude and Verne jokes as presented live and when read in print:
'Of course in printing their gags it is impossible to reproduce the emphasis given to a particular word, the expression or gesture that accompanies the line, or the atmosphere of the thing generally. To that extent, therefore, must the joke suffer when put into print. Still, the examples of their work given herewith may be regarded as in some measure bearing out the estimate of the writer that for quick, clever, diversified, up-to-date, topical patter there are not - nor have there ever been - two performers the equal of Vaude and Verne on the Australian stage' (October 1915, p.34).
Vaude and Verne were among the leading vaudeville acts to direct much of their material towards the war from 1915 onwards. As the straightman, Verne tended to feed Vaude by way of questions.
NB: See The Theatre Magazine October 1915, pp.31 and 34 for numerous examples of their war-related joke craft.
One of the features of Charlie Vaude's material, and indeed what appears to have set him apart from his contemporaries, was the high proportion of topical matter he presented at each show. The Theatre Magazine noted this fact as early as December 1914, reporting:
Men like Tom Kelly get together an assortment of jokes - a few of them new, but most of them old - and on these they work year in and year out. As against performers of this order you strike a man like Charlie Vaude, who is responsible for bright, fresh, topical stuff from week to week. Indeed, it's safe to say that Mr Vaude works up and presents every month of his life more original humour than many a man with an English or American reputation contrives to give in the whole course of his career (p.45).
More than ten years after they first formed their partnership, Vaude and Verne continued receiving glowing tributes from the critics for their topical jokes and local allusions:
Vaude and Verne work their seemingly inexhaustible topical newspaper jokes with happy results, Vaude aught to be appointed Director-General of Local gags to every Sydney pantomime. In his line he has no equal (Theatre, Society and Home July 1924, p.21).
1.2. Bill Verne: Although Verne appears to have a much lesser part in the act, a number of critics nevertheless noted that without his groundwork, Vaude's delivery would have lacked impact. A Brisbane Courier theatre critic once reported, for example, that Verne's preparation for each show necessitated reading all available newspapers, as much of Vaude's material would be impromptu reflections on what he had himself gleaned from both the local community and from what was happening nationally (21 September 1918, p.12).
In the 1912 Theatre Magazine interview, Charlie Vaude said of his partner's contribution to their act:
'Mr Verne has proved an excellent partner. He is always ready to work with me in trying any suggestion I may make. As a straightman he has a position to fulfil that very few straight-men could rise to, for the reason that in our case he has precious little to say, and out of a mere syllable he has often got to make a lot, merely by gesture and facial expression. Talking is much easier. We write all our own songs. Mr Verne has done a good deal in this direction' (January 1912, p.27).
The Theatre Magazine also records in 1916:
'Vaude has in Verne a particularly fine feeder. He dresses well, is of good appearance, a fair singer, is a quick yet clear speaker, and yields to Vaude - whichever way he blows - as naturally as the tree-tops bend to the wind. Or, if another simile is permissible, he is to Vaude what the springboard is to the diver' (April 1916, p.34).
1.3. Performance Style:
The following examples provide some insight into the Vaude and Verne act:
'As to their capability to hold an audience, Vaude and Verne have at times been put to the severest test. In one instance, theirs - a talking act for the most part - had to follow [popular American Hebrew comedian] Julian Rose, who in 'Levinsky at the Wedding' had been speaking for thirty minutes. Vaude and Verne proved quite equal to the occasion. Vaude's first line on entering was : "Now, to continue the conversation, only in English." This immediately secured them the interested ear of the audience. The rest was easy.' (Theatre Magazine October 1915, p.34).
When Ada Reeve was played the Tivoli she was always engaged as the headline act, and thus positioned second last on the bill. Her performance also rarely lasted less than forty-five minutes. The problem for the management was to find a final act with the ability to keep the audience in the theatre afterwards. The Theatre Magazine records that after numerous acts had failed to do this, the management engaged Vaude and Verne. The first night they followed Reeve, Vaude dipped his umbrella and hat in the fire-bucket behind the stage, walked out to face the audience and implored them to stay because it was 'raining like the dickens.' The ploy apparently worked because no-one stirred. They subsequently followed Reeve for four weeks with success (Theatre Magazine October 1915, p.34).
'[Charles Vaude] has an amazing range of talk, and it is seldom that his act is the same as the preceding performance. Verne is never sure what his nimble-witted partner is going to say, and makes it a practice to studiously read his daily newspaper half an hour before they go on the stage so as to have some knowledge of the events which Vaude is likely to satirise' (Brisbane Courier 21 September 1918, p.12).
'The remainder of the programme contained several good things, chief among which were the interminable and racy witticisms of Vaude and Verne, whose song and satire afforded some smart comments on current events and personalities' (Brisbane Courier 24 October 1921, p.9).
'Mr Charles Vaude lectured "Mr Oxley." This excurson into the realm of history rather upset [fellow performer] Mr Charles Albert, whose studies had led him to find inaccuracies in some of the "facts" related by Mr Vaude' (Brisbane Courier 8 Dec. 1923, p.10).
2. HISTORICAL NOTES AND CORRECTIONS:
2.1. Bill Verne's real name has been referred to as 'Partington' (Isadore Brodsky, The Streets of Sydney, p.40) and 'Bartington' (David Dunstan, Dictionary of Australian Biography, p.312). According to several reports published during their career, however, Verne's birth name was Will Barrington.
See, for example, Theatre Magazine January 1912, p.25 ; October 1915, p.34 ; and April 1916, p.34.
2.2. Australian Variety reported in its 10 November 1915 issue that Vaude and Jim White ('a Hawklet scribe') were about to form a partnership as 'song and sketch writers, revue specialists, and caterers to all vaudeville material' (n. pag.). No evidence of this collaboration having come to fruition has yet been located. James H. White was later associated with Harry Clay in running the Australian Theatrical Bureau [see Clay Djubal, 'Harry Clay and Clay's Vaudeville Company,' Appendix E, for details on his career].
2.3. A 13 February 1897 advertisement for Melbourne's People's Concerts features a double song and dance act by the name of Verne and Colligan. It is unclear if there is any relationship between this Verne and Will Barrington. Interestingly, the same bill advertises a a 'charming serio comic' by the name of Lily Burt. It is similarly unclear if there is any relationship between this person and Charles Vaude's first wife, Lilas Birt [see Lilas Birt section in Charles Vaude's entry - 'Historical Notes'].
The following list comprises articles, paragraphs, and reports relating to Charlie Vaude that are not given individual entries in this database.
Entries with an asterisk (*) beside them indicate that the source is an advertisement.
The Age: 9 February 1925, p.12.
Australian Variety and Show World: 19 September 1917, p.3 [re: Fullers' engagements] / 25 January 1919, n. pag.
Brisbane Courier: 21 September 1918, p.12 / 24 October 1921, p.9 / 21 November 1921, p.4 / 8 Dec. 1923, p.10.
Everyone's: 28 December 1921, n. pag.
Green Room: February 1918, p.2.
Sporting Globe: 10, 17, and 24 June 1939, n. pags.
Sun News Pictorial: 30 October 1942, n. pag.
Table Talk: 21 August 1930, n. pag.
Theatre Magazine: December 1912, p.33 [re. why Vaude and Verne and not Vaude and Ville] / October 1913, p.33 [Vaude talks about comedian Tom Dawson] / January 1915, p.46 [re. Ted Holland jokes] / September 1915, p.49 [re. Australian acts with a history of long engagements] / January 1917, p.52 [re. The Passing Show] / February 1917, p.32 / January 1918, p.38 / February 1918, p.32 / December 1918, p.32 / February 1922, p.21.