SHOWBOAT EXPRESS (ca. 1950) Empire Theatre all male comedy revue UK poster


[London: Moss’ Empress, Ltd., ca. 1950] Vintage original 10 x 15″ (25 x 38 cm.) British theatre poster. Two punch holes near top of poster on either side of the word “MOSS”, about fine.

Showboat Express was an all-male female impersonator/drag company revue which appeared at music halls in the UK. As a 1951-dated poster for a performance of the revue at the Tivoli Theatre has referenced, this poster is likely from about the same period. Headliners Bartlett & Ross and Ford & Sheen were well-established drag performers who had been at work in the UK since the 1930s.

Ford & Sheen were a British double act of drag artists, popular in variety shows and pantomimes between the 1930s-70s. They met when Sheen joined the cast of the all-male revue Splinters, and in 1936 the pair decided to team up as female impersonators in variety shows. They quickly became successful as glamorous drag queens. According to writer Roy Busby, “their rather old-fashioned cross-talk act, perfectly timed and polished by constant repetition, [contrasted with] the brasher style of modern drag acts. In the old tradition, they [took] their bow at the finale as well-groomed males.”

They toured widely during the Second World War, and the years following, with shows such as Showboat Express, Forces in Skirts, and Misleading Ladies. Over the years they became best known for appearing in pantomimes as “ugly sisters”, which they continued to do until the 1970s. (Wikipedia)

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