As part of Lewes Octoberfest we are delighted that Miles Jenner is performing his highly entertaining and hugely popular one-man show ‘If I catch Alphonso, tonight’ — a tribute to Billy Merson (1881 – 1947)
Alphonso Spagoni is the mythical toreador who stole the heart of Billy Merson’s fiancée while he had gone to ‘buy some nuts and a programme’ at the bullring. He is the subject of Merson’s most enduring song “The Spaniard that Blighted my Life”.
At exactly this time Merson had been cast as ‘Idle Jack’ in ‘Dick Whittington’ at the Theatre Royal, Brighton. He wanted ‘something dashing, Spanish and semi-operatic’ for his duet with the principal girl, Beatrice Allen, and decided to write something himself. He suddenly got an idea for the song, jotted down the words, hummed the melody – and the rest is history.
Born in Nottingham, William Henry Thompson (Billy Merson) commenced his career as part of an acrobatic act before going solo as a comedian and performing his own songs. After taking London by storm in 1910, his career flourished.
By 1912 he was appearing in the new ‘spectacular revues’ at West End theatres. A star of the UK’s silent screen, he can be found in cinema programmes alongside Charlie Chaplin. He was cast in the first production of Rose Marie at Drury Lane in 1925 and subsequently embarked on a career as an ‘actor manager’. In 1926 he starred in Britain’s ‘first sound film’.
The play was conceived with touring in mind. The simple, evocative setting and costumes allow the action to flow seamlessly, incorporating extracts from sixteen of Merson’s comic songs. It recalls the turbulent life of a man who constantly found himself on the ropes but always bounced back. A born entertainer, he was the inspiration for future generations of comedians and his legacy lives on.
Full details online at www.alphonso.info
The performance in Cliffe Hall is in aid of the church’s Weather Vane Appeal and is on Saturday 20th October at 7.30.
There will be complimentary interval refreshments – Sussex Cheese Bridies and Sussex Nuptial Ale
Tickets will be available via the brewery shop at £10.
We will be limiting the house to 50 seats to ensure good sightlines.