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Absolutely Fabulous Day!


L to R: Dean Caston, Debbie Hudd, Adam Borzone, Jan Hunt, Roy Hudd, Dame June Whitfield, Wyn Calvin, Edward Thomas

A Crackerjack of a day! The British Music Hall Society’s Summer Tea with Jan Hunt and Dame June Whitfield!

Finally, after so many years we can finally say welcome Dame June! In her own words when she received the OBE she called it “Old But Energetic”, and upon receiving the CBE she named it “Caught Before Expiry”- she is now musing what to call the DBE she will be collecting from Buckingham Palace later this year. I’d say “Dutifully Brilliantly Earned!”

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The event- talks by both doyens of comedy and pantomime, and an afternoon tea at the Royal Lancaster Hotel were organised by the BMHS, and it was a sold out full house affair!

Not only was there one Dame in the room but I counted a further six- Pantomime Dames that is- Roy Hudd OBE (President of the BHMS), Wyn Calvin MBE (Vice President of BHMS) along with Adam Borzone (Chairman), Simon Bashford, Andrew Ryan and my good self!


Half of the Dames in the room! Andrew Ryan, Simon Bashford and yours truly!

Jan Hunt was the first speaker, in conversation with Dean Caston, and she spoke about her days as a juvenile in Panto, performing as a double act “Jan & Kelly” in the UK and Australia, and about her West End Musicals, including “Showboat”, Plays like “A Bedful of Foreigners” and “Run For Your Wife”, as well as a year in “The Mousetrap”.


Jan told tales of terrible digs and dreadful gigs as well as the truimphs of BBC’s “Crackerjack”, and her career in Music Hall, both as performer and producer. Jan told us about The Players Theatre, appearances on BBC’s “The Good Old Days” and her love of Music Hall.

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Crackerjack with Peter Glaze & Don Mclean

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In Music Hall Mode

She spoke about her recent productions, bring “Sit Coms” onto the stage with succesful tours of “Dinner Ladies”, “Rising Damp” and the hugely succesful “Birds Of A Feather” tours .

She told Dean about her panto career, something I am very proud to have been involved in for about six or so pantomimes with Jan as my Prince Charming from Aberdeen to Wimbledon!

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Two pictures from my scrapbook. Early Pantos with Jan and Fern Britton top, and us all at Croydon, alongside June Brown, Windsor Davies, the late Ed Stewpot Stewart,Andrew O’Connor, Amanda Bairstow and Cheryl Taylor with Peter & me.

Jan concluded her talk with a number dear to her heart- “How’d you like to Spoon With Me”? which she sang in “Showboat at the Adelphi alongside Cleo Lane, and sings to this day in her Music Halls, accompanying herself on the spoons! We all got to join in!

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Accompanying her on piano was Laurence Payne, who led Roy and Wyn in aMusic Hall Sing-A-Long before Roy Introduced the Absolutely Fabulous June Whitfield.


Photograph Jenny Goodall courtesy of The Daily Mail

Afternoon tea, and more piano from Laurence Payne, and trhe rest of the afternoon in the company of a lady who is our longest serving comedy actress- Seven Decades of laughter, perfectly timed and delivered.

Roy Hudd once said that June has supported and fed so many of the top comedians that she is “The Comics’ Tart!” Her Comedy sparring partners have included Terry Scott, Frankie Howerd, Tony Hancock, Jimmy Edwards and Ronnie Barker to name just a few!

When I first worked with June in Pantomime we left our doors open in Wimbledon so we could pop in and chat, drink tea, and allow access to June’s dog “Rabbit”, who had originally belonged to Jimmy Edwards. Now I leave my door open to allow access to Sullivan, who will be joining our Panto company this year.

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June’s distinctive “Ohhh Ron” catchphrase from “The Glums” is apparently included in The Queen’s repertoire of impressions. Perhaps June will hear this for herself when she collects her DBE this year!

The above “Love From Judy” was an early West End success for June, who had not long left the RADA. The second name on the cast list didn’t do too badly either- little Barbara Deeks “carried On” until she became landlady of The Queen Vic!

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Wimbledon “Cinderella”- incidentally Jan Hunt took over certain performances as Fairy Godmother from June when we did this panto, as June was still filming “Absolutely Fabulous”, so I got to work with both ladies in one show!

June talked about her life in radio, television and films. She recalled The “Terry & June” years, the tours abroad and the “Carry On Films”- four of them.

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In Pantomime she began with Wilfrid Pickles at The Alhambra Bradford, having worked with him in a play in the West End. I have the programme in the IBY collection.

June is on the top right, with Pickles in the centre.


June recalled her times in the “Coward Family” when she appreared in “Ace Of Clubs” for “The Master”, Noel Coward, and in other reviews, and recalled the great cabaret seasons at the Cafe Royal . She and Roy had a discussion mid way through her talk- recalling her “audition” for the News Huddlines while appearing in Panto with Roy. She did one Thatcher impression during the kitchen scene and never looked back!

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The time flew, and decades of Dame June were still unexplored. This is the second time I’ve enjoyed a June Whitfield talk- the first time was at the Film Museum in South London. I also enjoyed “between shows “chats in panto when we both went through the book “Funny Way To Be A Hero” by John Fisher. June has worked with almost all the comedians in it!

A really great way to spend an afternoon with two fabulous theatrical ladies and a room packed with people who above all Strive to keep Music Hall Alive!

If anyone is interested in finding out more about the BMHS and their programme of events, look at



The Last Show! What A Beauty!


Saturday 4th March

The Pantomime finished today after 32 Performances to packed houses since January 25th. For me it’s been a long Panto run since the Autumn. The Pantomime Roadshow ran into rehearsals for Northampton Derngate panto, which in turn ran into rehearsals for this show. That’s a long time in tights!


Our VIP Visitor today was Panto Dame Doyen Chris Emmett. Chris (Centre) has appeared as Dame all over the country and here at Brick Lane Music Hall. A member of the GOWR (The Water Rats) he starred with Roy Hudd and June Whitfield on BBC Radio’s “News Huddlines” for many years, and was the comedy performer seen every week at peak viewing time on our screens in the programme “3-2-1” starring the wonderful Ted Rogers. So lovely to have him here today for the matinee!


Beauty Bids Bye Bye!

Today was a two show day, with a long gap between the Tea show and the Dinner Show. Four hours in fact. Despite the drizzle most of us headed along the precarious path, crossing the dock where City Airport lies, and into a pub on the other side of the water. Soft drinks and sausage and mash was the order of the day, until it was time to return to the cosy Brick Lane backstage, where our guests were already eating their dinner. Here’s a few between Show pictures.


Make up re-applied, and then at 9pm we were back onstage and running “Schlepping Beauty” for the last time. Great response, couldn’t have asked for a better reception to go out on, and a lot of fun to be had on the way!


Last day at School!


Rhys gets a make-over!

Its been over thirty shows to full houses. We’ve added additional shows this year to accommodate the bookings, and they have come from as far as Swansea, Yorkshire and as near as Silvertown and East Ham!  Our Cast, Our Stage Management, Lighting , sound,Administration, scenic painters and costumiers, Box Office, Chef, Catering staff and Front Of House Staff and indefatigable orchestra have made it to the end! Hoorah For Us!

From Brick Lane and from Deadly and her diary-Many thanks for reading this and Hope you enjoyed the blog! Farewell!


friday 3rd March:Doctor in The House!


Nick Bailey, Stevie Metcalf and Hannah Wrye join us for tea!

Yes, we had a Doctor in the House totay- For Eastender Fans it was Dr Anthony Truman. For “DreamGirls” fans it is Marty and in real life it is Nick Bailey! Nick is currenbtly in DreamGirls at The Savoy Theatre, and recently toured with our Hayley-Jo in “Jackie The Musical”. He’s also been seen in many prestigious Shakespearer roles, as well as appearing in “Corrie”, “Holby City” and “Casualty”. Lovely to see him watching the fun this afternoon!

We were delighted to see Stevie Metcalf again. Stevie helped out in creating some wigs for Andrew’s Nanny Fanny during rehearsals, and has had the opportunity to return to see his handywork onstage! Also joining us backstage today was Hannah Wrye, a recent graduate of Mountview Academy Of Arts and a lady with a very lovely voice!


Fanny and some fans!

A packed house today with groups from Crawley, Royal Tonbridge Wells and from Essex. Very jolly and a great reception at the end. It seems incredible that we now only have one day, that’s two shows left. Tomorrow we have a 2pm Tea Time show and a 9pm Dinner Show, then off we go into the cold night air of East London!


Meet Teddy!

Here’s Brick Lane Music Hall’s NEWEST star- Teddy!. Teddy is working flat out in the box office with the bookings that come flooding in, and no bones about it! He’s part Chinese Crested (Danny La Rue’s favourite breed of dog) and half Chiau.. Chuiha… One of them Mexican dogs! Cute isn’t he? He’s currently disguised as a Bee I think.

Tomorrow is last day of school. Anne Robinson returns to the archive, and the jokes to the British Museum. The final BLMH blog tomorrow!

Allo Allo-More Visitors!


Here we all are again! (Not my words, but as spoken by Joseph Grimaldi, the original King Of Pantomime!) its visitor day!

We were joined today by Johnny Manns and Becky, and Vicki Michelle and husband Graham Fowler. I was delighted to see a party from the Kenneth More Theatre, organised by Alan Hardy that included Margaret Brice.

Margaret came to the Kenneth More from Berman and Nathans the costumiers, where she had worked on film and stage costumes, including creating costumes for the Cecil Beaton “My Fair Lady”, “Flower Drum Song” “World of Suzi Wong” and major movies. She has created gowns for both Joan and Jackie Collins and that was before joining me at the KMT!

Over the years Margaret and I worked on about thirty pantomimes, as well as National and International tours of “The Rocky Horror Show” in the UK, Israel, Europe and finally at the Casino Paris. She created all my Ugly Sister costumes over twenty eight years. What a huge talent! I’m so proud Im wearing a couple of her costumes today in this show!


Johnny, Becky and Vicki backstage with Andrew’s friends Clare Langan and Peter Costello.

Vicki Michelle MBE is, of course famed for playing Yvette Carte-Blanche in BBC’s “Allo Allo” in all nine series from 1982 onwards. Recently she has created the role of Patricia Foster in Emmerdale, and of course went Down Under in 2014 with “Im A Celebrity- Get me out of here!”

A panto fanatic and a very evil Queen and a very Good Fairy, Vicki has just finished panto at the King’s Southsea with the Chase’s Anne Heggerty. I’ve appeared in a few gorgeous panto events with Vicki, and always remember her kind support when I launched my solo Dame eight or so years ago.Vicki has appeared in countless stage shows and pantomimes, a lot of farces in the West End and Australia, and- I love a connection. Lots of us are connected in this small business we work in. My friend Angela Ryder came to see the show last week. (21st Feb “A Right Royal Do”) Angela was in a musical called “Play It Again Sam” in the West End. A young actress called Vicki Michelle joined her to play opposite Dudley Moore! Hows that for a Brick Lane connection!


Gorden Kaye & Vicki Michelle

Johnny Manns is the Managing Editor of “Encore” magazine – a great theatrical magazine, as well as running a talent agency, and being a promoter and publisher. Like Vicki he is kept busy with a lot of charitable work. A member of the Grand Order of Water Rats, he learned his trade working alongside the legendary agent Billy Marsh. Lovely to see him and Becky again this year.


Waiting in the dressing room for The School Room Scene

The show went really well this afternoon- it was a Tea show. Only three more left now- tomorrow and the two shows on Saturday, then Schlepping Beauty Schleps off and the Irish Show goes into rehearsal. Like The Windmill Theatre Brick Lane never closes!


Daisy Martin- Martin Layzell’s Grandmother

Talent often runs in families. Our keyboard player (and sometimes percussionist) Martin Layzell and his Dad Tony played in the orchestra pit of my panto at Wimbledon years ago. Martin’s Grandmother, Daisy was an original John Tiller Girl! Circa 1910 onwards, she was also part of a troupe called “Daisy Martin and The Three Sherees”. Her is a picture Martin brought in today- doesn’t she look wonderful in one of her stage costumes. What a fabulous piece of theatrical history!


Arise Sir Ken!

Here’s another glorious piece of Theatrical History. Finally- at age 89 Ken Dodd jas been created Sir Kenneth Dodd. He and the world of variety are indeed Tickled! Congratulations Sir Doddy!


Feb 28th Birthday Boy!

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Always nice to be working on your Birthday! Had a jolly matinee at BLMH with a very lovely bouquet and chocolate cake- plus the audience serenading me with a “Happy Birthday!” in the finale! Thank you everyone!

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Dashed off after the show finished at 5pm for a meal at the Delauney and a cocktail at The Ivy. It’s a tough life some matinee days!

Here’s a blast from the past I found in my drawers yesterday!

Here’s Mr Vincent Hayes carrying his topper on the left and my good self (in a wig honestly!) on the right from about 1983/4. we were touring in “A Christmas Carol”. I’ve not seen this photo in many years!


A quirky sight below the auditorium. The laughs are not JUST on stage!

Wednesday was St David’s Day- Thank you Rhys for the daffodils- Diolch yn Fawr! And we had a lunchtime show packed to the rafters, and having a lot of fun. It was also Ash Wednesday, but no pancakes were tossed in the building that I know of.


A Night out for the cast!

Tomorrow is a tea. I’m looking forward to seeing a small party in from the Kenneth More Theatre, arranged by Alan Hardy. It includes Margaret Brice. Margaret was resident Wardrobe Mistress and maker of fabulous costumes at the KM Theatre for a few decades, and made all the fabulous costumes Peter Robbins and I wore throughout our Ugly Sister years. She will be delighted to see Deadly Nightshade wearing one or two of her original creations tomorrow!


To end with a Birthday- Here’s Keith ‘Appy Hopkins celebrating his 70th Birthday this week! Keith has just retired from playing Dame- him what’s appeared before Royalty in panto on several occasions! It was a swell party! Happy Birthday Keith!


A Gala Night! Sat 25th Feb


It’s not often I get to go “Front Of House”, but tonight was a special night- Vincent’s Gala Night to celebrate Twenty-Five Years of Brick Lane Music Hall!

This was my first experience of a Two Show Day here. In Panto over Christmas every day is a two show day, but at BLMH we do Tuesday to Saturday with a Tea, or A Lunch or a Dinner. Today Salem the chef had his work cut out creating two sittings- the lunchtime and the evening. No mean feat for him and the hard working staff!


We started the day arriving at around 1pm and I left the building (after a swift G&T) at 12.45am having been dressed as a Man, A Lady, A posh man, A Lady and a posh man to finish front of house. Exhausted thinking about it!


Our Guests this afternoon for the matinee, The fabulous Ria Jones and her friend Angela Laurence. Ria has just returned from Paris, where she has been starring in “42nd Street” at The Theatre du Chatelet, and following her trememdous reception as Norma Desmond at the Coliseum’s “Sunset Boulevard” last year, when she took over from Glenn Close for severa performances, she is recreating that role at Leicester Curve then on tour around the UK.


Here we all are with Ria backstage. She has starred in “Les Miserable”, “Joseph”, “Chess”, “High Society”, “Anything Goes”, “Acorn Antiques” and evenings at The Royal Albert Hall, to mention just a few- I reminded her it is 35 years since we appeared in “Cinderella” together in what I think was her first professional Pantomime when she was a hugely talented young performer! Here’s that programme.


We all had a very jolly matinee, and then a lengthy break between shows while Front of House and the kitchens prepared for our Gala Evening. Vincent is donating proceeds to the Grand Order Of Water Rats Charity, and we have about twenty members of the GOWR attending tonight.

In between shows some of us went out, some of us read books, chatted or played games!


Like the song we sing in the show “Oh what an atmosphere!” . A great night. I went FOH at BLMH as we say, and met up with my mates Jason Belne, John Pittom,Laura Hayes, Pip & Neil Barnes,  and   a party that included panto dames extraordinaire Bobby Crush and Andrew Ryan.

So sorry that we didn’t have the opportunity to greet David Hartshorne (His excellent site on Dorothy Ward is kept on IBY) and David and Petey. I know how much they were looking forward, and their seats were put to good use. Thank you boys!

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Gareth & Sarah won the giant Teddy! Congratulations!

Meanwhile the guests from the GOWR joined our merry throng in the auditorium- among them Music Hall (and Coronation street!) legend Roy Hudd with his wife Debbie Flitcroft. Both Roy and Debbie have recently presented “Mother Goose” at Wilton’s Music Hall- Roy’s Second Dame at Eighty- astonishing and humbling! We had Graham Cole (The Bill) Derek Martin (Eastenders) and veteran Pop Idol Jess Conrad joining Duncan (Chase Me!) Norvell, King Rat Ian Richards and a host of celeb Rats!


all Rats Together!

A lovely surprise for Vincent- Daughter Lucy arrived as a surprise guest! Here she is with Rhys, her former school chum!


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A great Gala Night with a lot of fun and some money raised for a great charity- celebrating 25 years of Brick Lane! Hoorah for us!

A Right Royal Do!

Vincent, Andrew and Paul left Brick Lane tonight( Tuesday 21st)  to head for the Lodge of The Grand Order Of Water Rats. It was for a right Royal night out in the company of Prince Michael Of Kent and his son Lord Frederick Windsor. Prince Michael is a member of the GOWR, as is Prince Philip and Prince Charles. Here they all are at their Dinner.

On Saturday (25th Feb)  Vincent is hosting a red carpet night at Brick Lane- our second show of the day with proceeds of this Gala Panto going to the GOWR. We’ll start this show at 9.30pm allowing time for the kitchens and staff to prepare their second sitting of the day!

Look out for Saturday’s Blog with a report on the Evening- a few Celeb guest stars at the Dinner, and indeed for the matinee. Watch this space!

The week has flown by- Two Lunches and Two teas leaving the Saturday for our first Twice Daily lunch and Dinner- shows will be at 2.30pm and at 9.30pm.

Visitors this week included my Brother Vivyan along with Isobel Hurll and Angela Skailes. During the break I was chatting to Tom and Martin about the London Hippodrome, now a Casino. Angela and Isobel were watching our panto, and interesting to note Angela was in the very last theatre show at the Hippodrome “The Dave King Show” before the theatre was converted into “The Talk Of London”, and Isobel went in as Principal Dancer when it had re-opened!


Vivyan, Isobel , Nigel & Angela.

Isobel has appeared in many Pantomimes, as Fairy Godmother and as Evil Villainess, and was Principal Dancer at The London Palladium for several seasons for Irving Davis, among her many years in the “Business”. Angela as Angela Ryder toured the world with her stage partner in an act that brought her to the West End several times. My Brother Vivyan retired as Theatre manager of The Kenneth More Theatre since it was created, and currently runs an encyclopedic website about Theatres and Musicals called

Another esteemed Visitor this week was Musical Director Supreme, David Carter. David I have known and worked with for a great many years, from our touring days for Barrie Stacey and variety shows. For a good many years Davis was accompanist and MD for Danny La Rue among others, and it is always a great joy to meet up with him here each year! Here’s David with Tom.




Meanwhile, back in the world of Schlepping Beauty we continue to pack ’em in each day, despite the efforts of Storm Doris to hold up the coaches as they head this way.

Tomorrow is our Two Show Day. Full reports on Monday!