Australian Variety Theatre Archive – Sixth Year Highlights (2016-2017)

The Australian Variety Theatre Archive (AVTA) is a research website devoted to popular culture entertainment in the Australasian region between circa 1850 and the mid-1930s. This year, 2017, marks its sixth year of publication.

The website went online on 10 May 2011, the 146th anniversary of the birth of Australian vaudeville entrepreneur Harry Clay. Since then the archive has published almost 3,000 new records. Many of these entries have also been updated.


Two priority projects were undertaken during the past twelve months to improve the AVTA. These have been completed.

  1. The hyperlinking of all people, troupes, and organisations mentioned in any online pages to their respective entries within the AVTA. Adding hyperlinks is now standard practice whenever a new entry is published.
  2. Replacing abbreviations for all references and citations to all PDFs published in the Works section (1840 to 1935), and adding hyperlinks to any newspaper reference digitised by the National Library of Australia (Trove). This is also now standard practice whenever a new production is added to any Works PDF.

Two additional projects initiated during the past 12 months will continue to be addressed over the 2017/2018 period.

  1. Replacing all abbreviations in PDF biographies with full citation details; and
  2. Creating more Research Notes PDFs. The rapidly increasing availability of digitised resources – especially the Australian National Library’s digitised newspaper service, Trove – means that the traditional researched biography can now be out of date almost as soon as it is published. The Research Notes alternative therefore provides interim historical insights.


In addition to the above projects 170 new entries were also added. This involved 116 new agent entries and 54 new works entries. 9 new sections and 7 new Research Notes PDFs were also published. Several biographies were updated and expanded, too, – notably those connected to Ike Delavale.

On 10 May 2017 the Australian Variety Theatre Archive comprised 1,366 agent entries (people, organisations, and miscellaneous industry activity); and 1,592 individual works entries (not counting revivals). To put this in perspective, that’s more than double the number of entries (up to and including 1935) currently recorded in AustLit: The Resource for Australian Literature, and at least five times as many Australian-written works identified by AusStage for the same period.* Both AustLit and AusStage are university-operated, multi-million dollar taxpayer-funded databases. The AVTA is a privately-operated resource that hasn’t cost Australian tax-payers a single cent.

* NB: AusStage also records non-Australian-written productions (or events) produced in this country, which makes it very difficult to isolate locally-written works. AustLit, on the other hand, focuses on Australian works  only – albeit with some basic records identifying any international sources for Australian adaptations (these are not included in the comparison count as they can be easily identified in the database).


Dr Clay Djubal would like to thank all those people who have contributed to the archive during the past 12 months. Without their help the AVTA would be much less enlightened.

He would also like to thank the 21,292 people who visited the site between 10 May 2016 and 10 May 2017 (a new record). Of these 7,425 people investigated the Archive further, at an average of 2.86 pages per person. The busiest month was April 2017 with 2,537 visitors.

The AVTA was accessed by people from almost every country on the planet (notably absent were some countries from the African and the Middle-Eastern regions). While Australia was naturally the dominant place of origin for these visitors, significant numbers of people also looked at the site from the USA, UK, New Zealand, France, Canada, Indonesia and Germany.


Adelaide • Brisbane • Darwin • Hobart/Launceston • Melbourne • Northern Territory • Perth • Sydney (Theatres/venues pages) and Historical Insights


Sidney Cook

Film and Vaudeville

An Interrupted Divorce • Charlie at the Sydney Show


Don Pictures (Darwin) • Lashwood & White Theatrical Agency • Lew Parks

Music Directors/Composers

Variety: H. Florack • Other: Oswald Anderson • John M. Dunn • George English • George English Jnr • C. W. MacCarthy • Isaac Nathan • W. Arundel Orchard • Hubert Russell

Organisations and Partnerships

Cole’s Variety’s • Cook’s Pictures • Kelly & Leon • Sadler & Kearns • Williamson & Musgrove


Variety: Australian Sapphires • A. V. Barry • Elsie Bates • Vera Benson • Billy Wells & the Eclair Twins • Belle Bluett • Humphrey Bishop • Gus Bluett • Kitty Bluett • Rosie Bowie • Dot Browne • Sid Burchell • Ben Calvert • Joe Charles • Charles & Dani • Les Coney • Conrad Charlton • Gerry Connolly • Mike Connors • Harry Cremar • Emilie Dani • Dot Davis • Bert Delavale • Ern Delavale • Delavale & Vockler • Tom Delohery • Fanning & Devoe • Farrell & Gaffney • Stan “Stud” Foley • Lucy Fraser • Jim Gaffney • Hilda Gifford • Gifford Sisters • The Glory Girl • Hagan & Fraser • Lizzie Hastings • Florence Henderson • Charles Hugo • Jennings & Gerald • Keith & Witt • Jake Mack • C. Post Mason • Don G. Merle • Cliff O’Keefe • Fred Parsons • Frank Perryn • Peggy Pryde • Edna Ralston • Alf Rockley • Lily Rockley • Wal Rockley • Rockley Brothers • Edwin Shipp • Les Shipp • Maude Shipp • Minnie Shipp • Shipp & Gaffney • Sam Stern • Nell Stirling • Lily Vockler • Fred Witt

 Practitioners: Other:

Bill Ayr • Frank Ayrton • Bert Bailey • Dan Barry • A. E. Balnaves • John Cazabon • Peter Dawson • J. I. Hunt • Stanley A. Kilminster • June Mendoza • A. B. “Banjo” Paterson • Rita Pauncefort • Mascotte Ralston • J. Harding Tucker • Jack Ward (aka J. E. Ward) • Wilton Welch •


Darwin Town Hall • Olympic Circus (Sydney) • Prince of Wales Theatre [1] (Melbourne) • Plaza Theatre (Northcote, Melbourne) • Queen’s Hall (Perth) • Scandinavian Music Hall (Sydney) • Stadium (Darwin) • St George’s Hall (Melbourne) • Yorketown Town Hall •


Dan Barry’s World-Wide Wonder Show • Clay’s Waxworks & Vaudeville Co • Florack’s Federal Minstrels • Lizzie Hastings’ Minstrels • Lizzie Hastings’ Picnic Party • Royal Strollers [2] • Shipp’s Entertainers/Minstrels • The Versatiles


Variety: Aboard the Lugger (1927) • Ace High (1927) • After the Storm (1925) • At The Show (1924) • Bubble and Squeak (1925) • Coppers and Capers (1926) • Crackers (1926) • Criss Cross (1927) • The Diamond Palace (1924) • Dots and Spots (1927) • Fireworks (1926) • Good Catch (1934/radio) • Happy School Days (1924) • Heads and Tails (1924) • Heave Ho! (1926) • Hello, Princess (1932) •  His Wives (1926) • The Holiday Makers (1923) • In Arizona (1926) • Jack the Giant Killer (1924) • Kentucky Days (1926) • Little Bo-Peep (1929/radio) • Mother Hubbard (1925) • The Mystic Egg (1927) • Nobody Home (1924) • Now and Then (1934) • The Painters (1926) • Pete Wins Tatts (1925) • Prince Charming (1921) • Princess Yo-Yo (1933/radio) • P’s and Q’s (1925) • Puff Paste (1926) • Put and Take (1925) • The Revue Star ()1931) • Rin Tin (1927) • The Singing Girl (1930) • Sky High (1925) • Snappy Sydney (1933) • Stumps Drawn (1926) • The Telephone Girls (1913) • That’s That (1923) • The Two Scamps (1899) • Water Babies (1925) • What Is It? (1915) • Who’s Baby (1926) • Wiggy Wiggy (1927)

Legitimate: Faust and Gretchen (1883) • Lady Nora (1907) • The Mandarin (1896) • The Man in the Moon (1907) • The Merchant of Bassora (1917) • Singvoegelchen (1882) • Uller the Bowman (1909) • The Windmill (1891)

Film & Vaudeville:

An Interrupted Divorce (1917) • Charlie at the Sydney Show (1916)

New Biographies (PDFs):

An Interrupted Divorce (film) • Charlie at the Sydney Show (film) • Oswald Anderson • Dot Mendoza

New Research Notes (PDFs):

Ben Goodson • Stanley A. Kilminster • Hal Lashwood • Billy Maloney • Eric Masters • J. Harding Tucker • Prince of Wales Theatre [1] (Melbourne)



The AVTA is another publication from


Published in: on June 11, 2017 at 6:26 am  Comments Off on Australian Variety Theatre Archive – Sixth Year Highlights (2016-2017)  
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“Stiffy and Mo: Iconic Comedy Made their Debut 100 Years Ago”

Stiffy and Mo - closeup

On 8 July 1916 comedians Nat Phillips and Roy Rene stepped on to the stage of Sydney’s Princess Theatre, presenting their alter-egos Stiffy and Mo before an audience for the first time. By the end of their partnership 12 years later the pair had firmly cemented themselves as one of the country’s greatest ever comic duos. New research by Dr Clay Djubal (Australian Variety Theatre Archive) shows that Phillips and Rene were brought together while in Queensland at the end of June 1916, less than two weeks before their historic debut in a one act musical comedy (revusical) called What Oh Tonight.

Fuller Pantomime Scene [TT Jan1919, 7]

Roy Rene (Mo), Daisy Merritt (The Dame) and Nat Phillips (Stiffy) in Babes in the Wood, Grand Opera House, Sydney (1918-19). Source: Theatre Magazine Jan. (1919), 7.

The first truly urban Australian larrikin characters to be developed on the variety stage, Stiffy and Mo captured the Australian popular culture’s imagination at a time when the country was attempting to deal with the crisis of World War I, and particularly the Gallipoli campaign. Despite their Irish and Jewish heritage, Stiffy and Mo came to exemplify a developing Australian national identity. Whether they were policemen, shopwalkers, sailors, bell-boys, jockeys, soldiers, beauticians, orderlies, porters or even bullfighters, Stiffy and Mo were all about mateship, loyalty, egalitarianism, larrikin attitudes, practical joking, self-deprecation, and an outright refusal to bow to authority figures.

Stiffy - portrait

The story of Stiffy and Mo begins several years earlier when Nat Phillips, already a veteran of the Australian and international variety stages, began developing a stage character, Stiffy the rabbitoh, in sketches with his wife, Daisy Merritt. As he recalls in a 1919 interview: “Until I brought Stiffy on the scene the Australian low-life character – the larrikin – was always portrayed as a [London] coster…. I decided to try the experiment with the Sydney larrikin. Steele Rudd made Dave an Australian bush type. I determined to come nearer home and present a city type. I couldn’t have wished for greater success.”

Phillips and Rene toured their alter-egos relentlessly around Australia and New Zealand until late-1928, albeit with an 18 month break in the mid-1920s. During their time together the pair starred in more than 30 individual revusicals, featured in five pantomimes, and published a Book of Fun. When they reunited in 1927 Just It magazine said the event almost overshadowed the Duke and Duchess of York’s royal visit.

Roy and NatThe influence of Nat Phillips and Roy Rene on the Australian variety industry and the development of an Australia comedic tradition cannot be over-estimated. They not only played a significant role in developing and popularising the revusical genre in this country, but also established a precedent in comedy partnerships by doing away with the comic/straightman format. Their legacy can also be seen in a line of comedians to follow them, beginning with George Wallace and Jim Gerald, through to the television era (with partnerships like Graham Kennedy and Bert Newton, Hoges and Strop etc) and beyond.

If you’d like find out more about this iconic comedy duo click on the link below:

Stiffy and Mo

Scroll down to their entry in “Stage Characters” and click on ‘More details’ to access a PDF biography.
The Stiffy and Mo entry includes sound recordings, images, links, an engagements chronology, and a list known revusicals. You can also learn how new research has overturned a number of long-standing myths and historical errors relating to the partnership.

The University of Queensland’s Fryer Library holds the Nat Phillips Collection, 11 boxes of manuscripts (including four complete Stiffy and Mo scripts), photographs, sheet music and ephemera.

See also the Fryer’s blog celebrating the 100th anniversary of Stiffy and Mo’s debut.

Stiffy & Mo Poster [Fabian]


Additional images. Top: Theatre Magazine July (1919), n. pag. • Middle: (1) Nat Phillips as a porter, (2) Roy Rene and Nat Phillips – Nat Phillips Collection, Fryer Library • Bottom: Courtesy of Jon Fabian
Published in: on July 6, 2016 at 6:06 am  Comments Off on “Stiffy and Mo: Iconic Comedy Made their Debut 100 Years Ago”  
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Australian Variety Theatre Archive – Now Online

About banner 3b

Dr Clay Djubal proudly announces that the Australian Variety Theatre Archive, a new research website devoted to popular culture entertainment between circa 1850 and 1930, is now online.

Coming Attractions / Recent Additions
is a post page that will announce recent updates and forthcoming entries

The first post is due for publication following the AVTA’s official launch in late June 2011.

The AVTA is another publication from

Published in: on May 12, 2011 at 12:47 am  Comments Off on Australian Variety Theatre Archive – Now Online  
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