By Dominique Jando
Albert Rebla (1880-1963), was born Albert James Stevens in Highbury, London, in 1880. His comedy juggling act was performed in a style popularized by W.C. Fields: Casual, slightly careless, tight juggling close to the body with sometimes dissimilar objects, sudden changes of rhythm and direction—and of course, humour. In his wonderful book of reminiscences, Vaudeville – From Honky Tonks To the Palace, Joe Laurie, Jr. infers that Rebla had adopted this style before Fields.
Stevens’s stage name, Rebla, was his first name reversed, without the "t", and he was generally billed simply as such, without a first name. He had been an apprentice to the celebrated juggler Maxime Agoust, who had created at the end of the nineteenth century with his family the "Restaurant scene," a popular group-juggling act with a restaurant’s various objects and furniture that was made famous later by Perezoffs. Rebla subsequently worked with various partners before going solo.
He made his career mostly on the variety stage, from British music halls to American vaudeville houses, and an array of European variety theaters in-between, notably Berlin's WinterGarten Theater. In 1918, Rebla married Elizabeth Albrecht, whom he divorced nine years later, in 1927. He appeared as an actor in several British films: W.P. Kellino's Billy's Stormy Courtship (1916), J.O.C. Orton’s The Celestial City (1929), Gareth Gundrey’s Just for A Song (1930), Maurice Elvey’s The Woman in Command (Soldiers of The King) and Albert de Courville's The Midshipmaid (1933), and Adrian Brunel's When Parents Sleep (1936). His juggling act was filmed for British-Pathé newsreels in 1935 (in which film he displayed his acting talents) and in 1938.
At the outbreak of World War II, Albert Rebla, like many of his fellow music-hall artists, sailed to Australia, where he toured the Tivoli Circuit. Unlike many of his fellow artists, however, he didn’t return to Britain and settled there. He died in Melbourne on November 8, 1963 at age eighty-tree.
- Video: Rebla, comedy juggling on a British-Pathé newsreel (1938)