Max Wall

Definition

Theater

  • (1908 - 90) British variety performer, noted for his grotesquephysical comedy. The son of Jack Lorimer, an eccentric dancer known as the 'Hielan Laddie', Wall made his variety debut as a child, when he was billed as 'The Boy with the Obedient Feet'. As an adult he appeared in cabaret as 'Max Wall and His Independent Legs', making his West End debut in the London Review of 1925. His eccentric dance would begin with a few quiet taps, before building into a mad frenzied whirl, during which he would rip off clothes and tear out his hair. In the 1920s and 1930s Wall toured Europe and America, making his first New York appearance in Earl Carroll's Vanitiesin 1932. It was during this period that he first began to interspersehis physical routines with sardonic one-liners (example: "Ifthey sawed a woman in half, I'd get the half that eats").

    Wall's most famous creation was the grotesque pianist Professor Wallofski. The antics of the professor, an outrageous figure in black shoulder-length wig, black tails, black tights, and large black boots, derived ultimately from the musical nonsense of the great Swiss clown Grock. Wall invented the character while serving with the Royal Air Force during World War II but did not present him on stage until 1946, when he appeared in the revue Make It A Date at the Duchess Theatre, London. Wallofski was usually introduced by a statuesquelady, who would attempt to engage him in polite conversation:

    lady What are you going to play for us, Professor?
    prof Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody, number two.
    lady Oh, Liszt! I love him!
    prof Do you really? Well, perhaps you'd likeme to dig him up?

    Infuriated by such exchanges the woman would lift the professorup to her height by his lapels. When he finally reached the pianothe professor would go through such absurd routines as finding a littlepotty inside the piano stool, attempting to play with the keyboardlid down, crushing his fingers, etc. As he played the piano, one armwould appear to become longer than the other.

    Wall's physical magnetism, mournful eyes, and lantern jaw provedjust as effective in serious drama; he undertook his first 'legitimate'role in 1956, when he appeared as Ubu in Jarry's Ubu Roi.He later gave acclaimed performances in both Osborne's The Entertainer(1974) and Beckett's Waiting for Godot (1981). In 1973 heplayed the British impresario Sir Charles Cochran in PeterSaunders's musical comedy Cockie at the Vaudeville Theatre.Two years later he successfully revived his old variety act as Aspectsof Max Wall, and received a special award from the Variety Club.

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