Hippodrome – Ando’s Imperial Japanese Troupe

This act was one of several which brought to the Tivoli Theatre of Varieties performers from around the world, which in itself would have been a novelty and attraction to the people of Birmingham. They would most likely have never seen Japanese, Chinese, Russian or even American people before, particularly dark skinned American performers, who were by the end of the decade to become extremely popular with the coming of “ragtime” music. Prior to this, minstrel shows had been popular for some time.

In the week commencing 8 October, 1900, there was the first appearance at the theatre of Ando’s “Imperial Native Japanese Troupe”, which comprised acrobats, jugglers and tight-rope walkers, sometimes referred to as “Ando’s Happy Little Japs”, according to April Lee on boards.ancestry.com. The troupe appeared at the Alhambra, Morecambe in 1905, when they were billed as being “direct from the Kabukiza Theatre, Tokyo” and also “the only troupe that ever appeared before the Royal Family of Japan in 1897”.

According to the website www.fultonhistory.com/Newspapers on one occasion “the boy who does the Little All Right rope slide with Ando’s troupe had a curious mishap at the Bradford Empire. He struck his fan against the ceiling as he neared the summit of his mount at the gallery rails, this slight disturbance causing him to lose his balance and topple over, but he seized the rope instead of falling 40 feet to the pit on the heads of the spectators, and managed to slide back to the stage. He then mounted the rope again as if nothing had happened and this time performed the feat without mishap”.