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The Shepherd's Bush Empire

Updated: Feb 9, 2023

Jasper Maskelyne toured London and provincial variety theatres almost constantly from the mid-1930s through to 1950.


The only significant breaks he took were for military service during World War Two, the occasional holiday and, in the post-war period, Easter, summer and Christmas residences at a London theatre with his own show.


While bookers avoided getting acts back to the same venue too often, acts would likely visit the same theatres every year or so.


One theatre Jasper performed at more than once was the Shepherd's Bush Empire, in West London.


Built in 1903 for Oswald Stoll, the Shepherd's Bush Empire was one of the larger music hall / variety theatres in London.


Here's some examples of Jasper's appearances at The Empire.


1935

Jasper Maskelyne appeared at the Shepherd's Bush Empire in the week beginning Monday 7 October 1935. This was probably his first performance there after leaving Maskelyne's Theatre at St. George's Hall in early 1933 (where he'd worked for a decade).


As with all variety theatres at the time, acts came together on a Monday morning for band call and rehearsals. The week's shows started that evening and ran through to Saturday night. On Sunday the acts would travel to another theatre and the cycle repeated itself.


Jasper topped the bill this week, as this image of the theatre's marquee (billboard) shows:


A programme from the same week, has Jasper appearing in the tenth spot of the show, as 'The Royal Command Magician' (as by this point in his career, he'd performed before royalty several times).



1937


Another appearance by Jasper Maskelyne at the Shepherd's Bush Empire took place in the week starting 15 March 1937. He was second on the bill to Max Miller 'The Cheeky Chappy' a hugely popular theatre and film comedian.


But, it was the Maskelyne Box Trick which stole the headline in a review of the week's acts.


1949


A further of Jasper's appearances at The Empire, and probably his last, began on 27 March 1949. He was second on the bill to Hal Monty, a comic and actor / dancer who was famous at the time for his performances in two films released in the same year.


The Stage newspaper gave a short review of Jasper's spot:

SHEPHERD’S BUSH EMPIRE: The finely-presented magical display of Jasper Maskelyne is enhanced by the assurance and polish of the performer, who provides among other intriguing problems an unusual version of the much-discussed Sawing through a Woman Illusion.”⁠

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