5 December 2023 / Events

Crime, Sex and Scandal: Songs of George Leybourne (1842-1884) (ONLINE BOOKINGS)

This year’s Maggie Collins Lecture will be presented by CHRISTOPHER BEECHING.

Christopher Beeching explores the whims, sexual mores, criminal ways, and quirks of Britain’s mid-Victorian society. Through the medium of little-known songs, and accompanied by pianist Paul Knight, this highly-entertaining presentation combines rare and unexplored songs of the Lion Comique George Leybourne (1842-1884) in a performance that illustrates the fact that very little has changed in society.  As Leybourne sang, ‘It’s The Same Thing Over Again’.

Beeching will also be introducing Volume II of The Heaviest of Swells, his major three-volume biography of George Leybourne. Volume I was shortlisted for the Society for Theatre Research, Theatre Book Prize 2011.

The speaker:


Actor-Singer / Writer / Director / Choreographer / Designer

Christopher Beeching has led a life of total immersion in theatre, not only as a performer, but as a director, choreographer and designer, in a career which spans almost 60 years.

His debut in London’s West End was as Brent Tarleton in the first musical version of Gone with the Wind at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Other West End appearances include The Card, Cole, A Little Night Music and Cats.

He has also performed in roles as diverse as Sergius in Arms and the Man, Dr Chasuble in The Importance of Being Earnest, Gratiano in The Merchant of Venice, and Mr Punch in a specially written musical play Mr Punch and the Pirates. And as a popular pantomime dame, he has played seasons in Hebden Bridge, Huddersfield and Rochdale.

Chris has also made many appearances on TV including The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Elizabeth R, The Strauss Family, Pennies from Heaven, and in film, Quilp, The Secret Lives of Sherlock Holmes., etc.

He was assistant director on tour and in the West End with Oliver, assistant choreographer on the film of Breaking Glass, and in theatre has directed and choreographed productions of Guys & Dolls, West Side Story, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Fiddler on the Roof, Charlie Girl, Hello Dolly etc...

In 1993 with Douglas Foote he formed a set design company called Prosceneium and designed the sets for over 30 musicals plus many pantomimes. In London, Chris designed operas at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, as well as plays in the fringe and repertory.

In Greece Chris was seen on Kydon Televisions Crete News and Life, presenting a series of 20-minute documentaries about life on Crete.

He worked in Athens as the associate director on a new Greek play, O Kyrios Episkopakis, starring Stelios Mainas, based on the best-selling novel of the same name.

Since 1984 he has performed a one–man show, Champagne Charlie, about the first Super Star of the British music halls, George Leybourne, and has given many talks on the Lion Comique. Extracts from Champagne Charlie have been televised several times. For the ITV Television series Bright Lights, Big City he performed many of Leybourne’s songs, which were used throughout the six programmes. He also appeared as Leybourne in the BBC4 series Rude Britannia when he again performed Leybourne’s numbers, as well as discussing the Lion Comique’s career with Michael Grade, on the BBC4 TV series, The Story of Music Hall.

Volume I of his three volume biography of Leybourne, The Heaviest of Swells, was short-listed for The Society for Theatre Research Theatre Book Prize 2011. Volume II of The Heaviest of Swells is due for publication in late October 2023, with Volume III to follow in late 2024.

In 2013 he was invited to speak at the first international conference on music hall: The People’s Palace: culture and controversy in music hall and vaudeville, an event organised by King’s College, London and the University of Liverpool, his subject being, Social Resonances in the songs of George Leybourne.

He gave his final performance of his show Champagne Charlie in October 2013 to a sold-out house at London’s prestigious Wilton’s Music Hall. The performance was live-streamed around the world, and a DVD has been released. There is also a studio CD of the songs.

Autumn 2017 saw the premiere of his new show, Occasionally on My Back or Adventures and Mishaps in Musical Theatre, which takes a light-hearted look at the trials and tribulations of being a performer.

Chris feels very honoured to have been invited to present the STR’s Maggie Collin’s Christmas Lecture for a second time.


STR lectures are free and open to the public. You don’t have to be a member, but it is essential to book to let us know if you wish to watch via the zoom livestream. Links to the livestream will be emailed to those who have booked and also added to the event before it starts. 


5 December 2023


07:30 - 8.:30