As long as there has been theatre there has been summer season. Theatre companies tour their shows in the summer months. Popular entertainers will work summers in shows at in playhouses and pier theatres in resorts up and down the country.
Seaside entertainment grew into a British tradition. It started in the Victorian and Edwardian eras as holidaying by the seaside became popular. End of the pier theatres, pavilions and pleasure palaces sprung up everywhere from Blackpool to Brighton. End-of-the-pier shows were very popular. Entertainers, singers and comedians would go where the crowds were during the summer season.
Later, popular film and TV stars would take their acts or the shows they were appearing in on radio and television to the seaside theatres for the summer. This would cement their appeal with their audiences. Theoretically, already shows that already had broad radio and TV audiences should have been sure things and be hits with the holidaymakers.
Kay Callard was in Jack Hylton’s production of The Archers as Judy Drake. Following previews in May in Wolverhampton and Bristol the show ran at the Grand Theatre, Blackpool from 4 June to 2 October 1954.
The Archers starred Jack Warner as Dan Archer, Joyce Barber, Peter Byrne (who would later star with Warner in Dixon of Dock Green), Bonnie Downs (who worked with Hylton in Jack Hylton Presents and Variety Parade), Anne Purkiss as Grace Fairbrother, Dandy Nichols (best known as Else Garnett long suffering wife of Alf), Arnold Ridley (writer of the play Ghost Train and would go on to star as Private Godfrey in Dad’s Army) and Charles Victor (veteran of many British movies).
The plot of Jack Hylton’s production of The Archers revolved around plans to build a caravan park on land next to the Archers’ Ambridge farm.
The reviews were mostly positive but the show failed to turn a profit and Hylton did not stage the show again. This is largely down to the costs involved in producing a show of this size with the cast involved. It seemed that popular radio characters didn’t translate well to a more ‘live’ medium.
Kay Callard was starting to make a name for herself in the early 1950s and was not yet known nationally for her TV roles. Her film roles were also small. Of all the players, perhaps the best know was Jack Warner who had been starring as Joe Huggett in the Huggett series of films and as Police Constable George Dixon in The Blue Lamp.
Summer season still exists in Britain but it isn’t as popular as it once was. Audiences began to dwindle from the 1970s as packages holidays and cheap foreign travel have drawn people away from the uncertainties of the British simmer weather to the more consistent weather of the Mediterranean and beyond.
The most popular and long-lasting show is the Seaside Special at the Pavilion Theatre in Cromer. It is perhaps the last end-of-the-pier show in Britain.