COMEDIAN Bernie Clifton is looking forward to bringing some classic family entertainment to Salisbury Playhouse.
The zany, visual comic, best known for appearing with his ostrich Oswald, is topping the bill at The Hiss and Boo Show next week.
The musical hall-style variety show is packed full of sketches, jokes, songs and dance.
And Clifton will be joined by musical theatre stars Jessica Punch and Graeme Henderson as Punch ‘n’ Him, songstress Vivienne McMaster, Mr Banjo Steve Galler and pianist Laurence Payne.
Clifton has known master of ceremonies Ian Liston for more than 30 years and jumped at the chance to get involved.
“It’s a great concept and right up my street,” he said.
“It’s keeping the notion of traditional music hall but we call it more variety – it covers all aspects of music, dancers, silly comedians and it’s pitched at youngsters of all ages.
“I think in the 80s the idea of ‘family entertainment’ became slightly stigmatised but it’s a wonderful umbrella term.
It doesn’t mean aimed at children, it’s aimed at people relaxing and becoming immersed in the best of theatre.”
Clifton started his career as a singer working the clubs in the north but comedy soon found its way into his act.
“Growing up in Merseyside I think there was this kind of in-built cheekiness and the Liverpool sense of humour with the big Irish influence of people who would do anything just for the craic,” he says.
“It just kind of spilled over into my singing. It’s just an extension of who I am, but I guess I’m probably fortunate that I’m able to express it in a public space. I really enjoy what I do.”
Clifton grew up watching the likes of Eric Morecambe, Tommy Cooper and Ken Dodd in Blackpool and used to dream about one day following in their footsteps.
He sees himself as having “picked up the baton” but worries that the old-style entertainment could disappear if we’re not careful to preserve it.
“I do pantomime every year,” he says.
“It’s an opportunity where three generations of the same family can come and listen and enjoy without any of them being embarrassed or offended. That’s something that, if we’re not careful, could be lost.
“It crosses the divide, and there are few opportunities for that kind of entertainment anymore, which I think is sad.”
Clifton likes to take on a variety of different things, and as well as stage work also does a weekly show for Radio Sheffield, and recently went back to his singing roots, performing with a Viennese orchestra.
He also plays trombone with the England Band, which is officially sponsored by the FA, and will be travelling to Brazil for the World Cup next month.
“It’s great to still be finding things that stretch you,” he says. “When I was a teenager I thought there was no chance I would live to see the millennium, so to be still around, still at it and staying busy, feels like a privilege.”