Jack Tripp - A great performer remembered

1922 – 2005 : Jennifer Haley remembers a great performer.

Fol de Rols c1960

Fol de Rols c1960

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 known to me, but the central pair – the leading man and lady are quite recognisable. A tall dark haired woman and a short man – Kathleen West and Jack Tripp.

Jack did many seasons with the "Fol-de-Rols" in the 1950's and '60's. They were a marriage made in heaven. The refined gentillity 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 and 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 couple in "Eightsome Reel", "Come dancing" and it wasn't until halfway through that the audience realised the "girl" who kept going wrong was Jack.

Jack Tripp

Jack Tripp

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 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 Lacey, 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 and 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 with "modern" panto and glad to hang up his "Boobs" and retire.

About six months ago I found a lovely old copy of "In the 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