Eve and Agnes Doublegate, with their father Albert were quite famous in the first quarter of the Twentieth Century. Their father helped guide, frequently guard, his two daughters whilst acting as their manager, musical arranger and accompanist. In fact he is seen as the force behind the developing of their variety and music-hall act alongside frequent appearances in G&S operas. The twins were especially visible when playing together as two of the ‘three little maids’ in ‘Mikado’.
Christened Eve and Agnes, their billed name was ‘the Twinkle Twins (and Albert)’ and their stage names were Verity and Vanity. I am not sure which was which, in fact they deliberately switched names and roles, often mid-act, much to the confusion of Albert. The question is, was it part of a well rehearsed act?
Well, Agnes, in her reminiscences at the age of 90 insisted they had only done it to “exasperate” Albert mid-show if he had been over-protective the previous night. She said they would only swap names once in a show and sometimes take on the other’s routine and deliberately mis-cue, for their father’s irritation. They were a singing, dancing and topical music act but liked to throw in plenty of pointed comment and satire on events and people of the day. Agnes claimed she was Verity and Eve was Vanity, names chosen because they flowed well and fitted the opposites of their actual characters.
Eve, born 1898, Agnes in 1899 ( not twins then!) their mother died when they were six/seven and the twins spent even more time with their father in his peripatetic life as pianist and arranger for music-hall and shows. Full performers by the age of 14/15 they found themselves invited into the house-party circuit as well as music-hall and G&S. They were introduced to the party weekends after entertaining at a small gathering at Saffron House just before the start of WW1 and continued their saloon-cum-vaudeville-cum-cabaret act through to the late thirties, when their father died. Their appearances on the stage petered out rapidly afterwards as they had matured and times had changed but they continued with occasional stately-home parties, basically entertaining old friends. They frequently entertained the troops in WW2, especially the hospitalised and recuperating, an activity started in the Home Counties in WW1. From the start of the Great War, initially through military contacts around Windsor they were invited to perform at temporary local military hospitals in the likes of Cliveden and Chequers and even the hastily erected hospital huts in Windsor Great Park.
Beautiful in their youth and prime, consistently cheerful and bubbly, with voices that could fill any song with meaning. From cheeky vaudeville to romantics of the day and many a war-time favourite, their songs garnered popular appeal. They could vary their acts for the audience and always raise the dullest of crowds. Their effervescence endeared them to any audience and their ability to be outspoken and critical was leavened by their sense of fun and downright quality of voice. They leave no recordings.
Agnes, in her recollections, would often mention their early years, just before and throughout the First War when they were invited to many big houses and met political and military figures of the day, balanced by their visiting injured soldiers.
“We were so fond of Ernst (Herrenberg), he and Charlie (!) helped get us known. It was nice when Veronique could join us but she had other fish to fry”. She also recalled meeting the war-artists Francis Dodd and Paul Nash and another, an Alfred Smollson (unknown).
Note: Veronique (Beauchene) was frequently the third little maid in G&S before WW1 and occasionally performed in their country house ‘cabaret’. A great and lifelong friend of the Twinkle Twins but her stage career dwindled as the war proceeded. Considered a rare beauty in her day, of French and German parentage but actually born in England and very English despite her slight French accent. Most of her early life lived in England with summers in France, until the Great War.
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