The Max Wall Society was launched on 1 July 2003 in appreciation of an entertainer and actor whose remarkable talent lives on 26 years after his death in 1990.
The objective of the Society is to perpetuate Max's memory by uniting individuals in shared recollection through regular meetings, events and the publication of Wall Paper, our thrice-yearly journal. The Society was formally launched in 2004 with an exhibition and variety performance at Greenwich Theatre.
In 2006 the Society placed a plaque on Max’s 1908 birthplace in Brixton (where, in the same block of flats, young Charlie Chaplin was living at the time). A suitably grand dinner was held at the prestigious Savile Club in 2008 to celebrate Max's centenary, and a BFI season of Max’s film and television work followed later that year. In 2010, to honour Max, Dance Crazy, a celebration of eccentric dance, was held at Greenwich Theatre. Each year a convivial dinner is held on, or as near as possible to, his birthday the 12th of March.
Probably the comic persona for which Max will be most remembered is the eccentric piano-playing character in lank wig, black tights and elongated boots. It developed when he was entertaining in the RAF during the war. The bizarre character re-emerged in the revue Make It A Date at the Duchess Theatre in 1946. Wallofski developed into a set-piece and incorporated what became known as his celebrated Funny Walk (much emulated and an influence on many other performers.) The visual aspect of this classic routine owed much to Max’s early observation of Grock in the 1920s. For the rest of his career Max was constantly requested to perform as this grotesque creation in the tradition of the great clowns.
The photo on the left is of an early Wallofski making his West End debut in the revue Make It A Date. He was to adopt his trademark tights later when appearing in a season of cine-variety at the Empire, Leicester Square.
Early on in his career Max discovered that he had a talent for eccentric dancing undoubtedly inherited from his grandmother Maudie Ross and his father Jack Lorimer. Maudie had been a well known and popular Platform Dancer in the Victorian music halls.
Max further honed his talent by assiduously watching visiting American masters such as Hal Sherman, Barry Oliver and Sliding Billy Watson. Max was later to become a supreme exponent of the 'art' in his own right, influencing many twentieth century comedians.
From his study of the Edwardian eccentric dancers Max perfected dance steps that would later evolve into Michael Jackson's signature move, The Moon Walk.
Max's first significant dramatic role was a tour-de-force in the surreal Ubu Roi at the Royal Court in 1966, as the psychotic Pere Ubu, created by French playwright Alfred Jarry. His next venture into the 'legit' was in Arnold Wesker's 'The Old Ones' at the same theatre in 1972, but his real emergence as an actor of considerable depth was at Greenwich Theatre in 1974 where he brought a fresh perspective to failed music hall artiste Archie Rice in John Osborne's 'The Entertainer', directed by the author. He followed this with a masterful performance in Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape (1975), also at Greenwich, directed by Patrick Magee for whom it had been originally written.
His definitive Vladimir in Waiting For Godot at the Exchange Theatre, Manchester, and at The Roundhouse (1980) was acclaimed, and he eventually read Malone Dies at the Edinburgh Festival in 1984 as well as appearing in a re-make of Beckett's Film, which had originally starred Buster Keaton.
He proved to be a leading interpreter of Beckett's work and he and the great playwright became friends.
During his creative time at Greenwich Theatre under Ewan Hooper's imaginative aegis, when he appeared in Pinter's The Caretaker and in Twelfth Night, Max invented his one man show Aspects of Max Wall and enjoyed a successful 1974 season there, attracting a new audience of young people. When he appeared at the Shaw Theatre the following year Alistair Cooke acclaimed him with one of the most glowing reviews of his long career. In time Max took the show as far afield as the Adelaide Festival in Australia, where he was compared to one of his favourite modern comics, Lenny Bruce, and played it in the West End at the Garrick Theatre where it was televised by the newly-launched Channel 4.
In 1973, Max stole all the notices in his return to the West End in Cockie, bases on impresario CB Cochran's career for whom he had worked in 1927, The international Herald Tribune had proclaimed Max Wall as: "The funniest comedian in the world". When he died in May 1990, Max was as creative as ever and planning a new one-man show. In 2006 a commemorative plaque was placed by the Max Wall Society on his London birthplace.