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291 Club, The (1991-93)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Introduced by presenter Miles Crawford as "a cross between the London Palladium and the Apollo in New York", the 291 Club is essentially a variety show staged at the Hackney Empire where the audience chooses the winner.

A range of diverse acts, including singers, dancers and musicians come on stage every week and try their luck in front of a merciless audience. Eschewing any notion of polite applause, any act which fails to entertain the crowd is soon booed off and given "early retirement." This involves the dreaded spectre of the Sandman, a six foot dread not averse to brandishing a mock-threatening foam baseball bat, coming on stage, stopping the contestants mid-song and dragging them off for a proverbial early bath.

The acts which do manage to finish their performances are then brought out at the end as the winner is chosen from whoever garners the loudest and longest applause from the audience. The hopefuls are bookended by two acts, the first often a seasoned stand up comic who helps get everyone in the mood, and the night's festivities end with a song from an established music act.