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Betty’s Brick Lane Blog Begins!

January 19, 2014

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No sooner has Blodwyn landed back from her voyage to Llandudno- she’s about to change her name and sail off on the Saucy Sally heading for Brick Lane!

Monday 13th January

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I think the first thing to mention for those who have yet to experience the magic that is Brick Lane Music Hall- it isn’t in Brick Lane. The Music Hall founded by Vincent Hayes MBE twenty-one years ago is in its third incarnation. The home of Music Hall is now in Silvertown, East London,nestling in a former church- St. Mark’s, Newham.  beside the City Airport. Vincent was awarded his MBE last year for his services to Music Hall and founding the Brick Lane Venues that also  take their work into the community, and perform to those who may not be able to get out and enjoy some laughs and some nostalgia.

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Inside the stunning interior has been transformed into a thriving, living working Music Hall. It isn’t a period piece, as the Panto here illustrates! “Big Dick Whittington” is a saucy seaside-postcard carry on of a panto for the grown-ups, and can be enjoyed with an afternoon tea, or a lunch, or on Fridays and Saturdays s an evening show with a full dinner!

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Today it was first day back at school in Vincent’s emporium, with a brand new script by veteran Panto performer Paul Harris, who directs along with Vincent, and with additional material by resident Captain of the Saucy Sal, Paul James.

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Rusty (King Rat) Goffe & Director Paul Harris

The cast- most of them are regulars here, and part of the Brick Lane Family,so introductions are in order.

Master Dick Whittington is, as you expect in a Music Hall, played by a lady- a Principal boy no less, played by Saskia Brynne. Last year here she was Principal Girl, and comes here from a panto in Whitley Bay, playing Mrs Darling in  “Peter Pan”.

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Saskia (Dick)  & Ellie (Fairy)

Dick’s love Alice Fitzwarren is Anna Campkin. She is a regular Brick Lane artiste, last seen here over Christmas in “Vincent’s Christmas Wonderland” show, and has just finished an eighteen month tour of “Dreamcoats and Petticoats”.

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Captain Norfolk is Paul James. Paul is a regular broadcaster for the BBC Radio Kent (25 years)  and a popular face here at Brick Lane. Last year he appeared as Widow Twankey in the Music Hall Panto, alongside his radio partner Paul Harris as Genie.

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Paul Harris’s book “The  Pantomime Book” is a definitive guide to panto gags (and available through Amazon at Twelve Ninety Nine!)

Our ship’s mate is another tribute to the world of the Principal Boy, payed in thigh slapping carry on style by Hayley Jo Whitney. Hayley will be familiar to viewers (if they have their glasson on) as she is currently the Zumba teacher in the Specsavers adverts! She has arrived here after giving her Wicked Queen in Hertford.Hayley Jo has appeared here in “Ooh La La!”, “There’ll Always Be An England” and the recent “Divas” show that returns this year for Divas 2″.

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The Evil King Rat is played by Rusty Goffe. A veteran of film, television and pantomime, Rusty is approaching his fiftierth year in the business! During rehearsals Ben Goffe (Rusty’s son) came in as fight director to stage the fight between Tommy The Cat and King Rat, having just himself finished a panto season at the Opera House Manchester.

Rusty was last at Brick Lane appearing in “Snow White” playing ALL seven dwarfs and presenting his multi instrumental “Spesh” act! He has appeared in panto in theatres from The Tivoli Aberdeen to The Theatre Royal Nottingham. He appeared in Barnstaple in “Snow White” NOT as a Dwarf, but as principal comic, Rusty Dusty. He is notable in the world of commercials as the face of Ginsters! But possible more recognisable as the Chief Bank Teller in “Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows (Part Two). He has just finished working on the new series of “The Borgias”.

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The Fairy Of The Bells is Ellie Self. Ellie hails from Nottingham, where she has appeared in the hugely popular Playhouse Pantomimes, with Jeffrey Longmore as Dame, and alongside Kenneth Alan Taylor in “Sleeping Beauty” and “Jack & The Beanstalk”. She was recently in the 42nd Street Charity Gala at the London Palladium.

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Andrew (Tommy The Cat) Hayley (Choreographer) David (Musical Director)

Tommy the Cat is played by Brick Lane regular Andrew Robley. Andrew is also a regular on the High Seas- not the Saucy Sally but on the Cruise Liners. He joins rehearsals a few days later as his ship returns from The Carribbean on Tuesday night. He has been performing on board over Christmas and New Year. Prior to this he was in “Vincent’s Winter Wonderland” here at Brick Lane as the venues most regular and popular vocalist. He has performed in Summer Season, Panto and on board the liners regularly each year.

Our Choreographer is Hayley-Jane Simmons. Hayley has just returned from choreographing the Weston Super Mare Pantomime starring George Samson and The Simmons . She has choreographed pantos at Telford and Newark recently, and as a performer has appeared in cruises, pantomimes and musicals.

Our Ensemble- Londoners, Sailors and Spirits of London are Stephanie Sen, Bethany Walsh and Lauren McCabe.

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Lauren trained at CPA studios, appearing in panto at Weston in “Aladdin” and “Sleeping Beauty”, and “Cinderella” at Crawley as well as appearing with the New Emglish Contemporary Ballet Company.

Stephanie graduated from Millennium Dance 2000 and has appeared in various musicals inclusing “Indian Summer” at The Brickhouse, and danced in the Olympic Opening Ceremony.

Bethany also graduated from Millenium Performing Arts and has appeared in “Sleeping Beauty” at The Playhouse and at the Bloomsbury. She stufied for 4 years at Northern School of Ballet.

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Music Hall has to have music! Our MD is David Harvey. He trained at the Royal College of Music and the Royal Academy. There’s posh! He is a regular pianist for the International Opera Swchool at The Royal College. I fear he will find my version of “Docklands Market” an interesting change from that when he hears it!

David has been involved in  several Musical tours including Carousel (UK and West End) Shall We Dance (Sadlers Wells) the Twelve Tenors (Germany) and has created all the musical arrangements for this Brick Lane Panto.

Joining us on percussion will be Andy Pook .

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The show here is, of course produced and presented by Vincent Hayes, with Production design by Zara Kattan. Chris Floyd is the regular Brick Lane scenic artist, and is responsible for the amazing murals both inside and outside the venue. There is a huge mural on the exterior wall of Brick Lane that is quite amazing, and inside he has created a host of characters (some very recognisable as performers at Brick Lane) peering at you from the walls of the theatre!

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During the “fit up” Chris will be assisted by Connor Mills.

Our sound and lighting is in the hands of Gary Climpson. He has the eagle’s eye view from his lofty desk high up at the back of the building. Every one of us is radio miked- that is a lot of sound mixing, together with sound and lighting effects on top. He’ll be a busy chap during the shows!

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Frank Kershaw and Costumes

Sitting in number two dressing room through rehearsals is Frank Kershaw. Frank creates the rather stunning costumes each here here at Brick Lane, not just for the pantomimes, but for most of Vincent’s Shows. I was delighted to finally meet Frank! We’ve communicated by email and by phone but never met. Frank created the stunning Cinderella Dress for the Ilford panto I designed last year. He has created a lovely Green, red and Gold finale for this “Big Dick Whittington”, as well as all the principal costumes except for me! Betty brings her own, and, being just fifteen minutes away in a car, I don’t have a long distance to transport them!

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I am, of course Nigel Ellacott  giving my Betty. My late husband Mr Swallocks left me with a ship and a shop, and Alice is my Step Daughter. I’m still confused as I thought her surname was Fitzwarren, but possibly he was a friend of my late husband. I’ll go in to that deeper when we do the “Method” rehearsals I think. When I’m in my box. The Stanislavski one. Yes…

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Today, Monday we met up and had coffee, chatted and settled down to a read through of the Panto script. Andrew will be arriving later, as his ship has yet to dock at Southampton, so today we read the script and read in for Andrew.

The venue still has the Christmas decorations up, and during the day these began to be taken down. Tallescopes and very tall ladders were used, as this former church has VERY high ceilings. Not only is it a church converted into a grand Music Hall, it has a large and plushly decorated bar, that looks as though Marie Lloyd could be found propping it up, and a wealth of artifacts and posters, statues and witty signs dotted all over the place. It is, in a word, gloriously “camp!”

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The venue has a large working kitchen. This venue will play host to Matinee Cream Teas, or three course lunches or dinners five days a week, sometimes six, and employs a large and loyal staff who have been with Vincent through the years.

The rehearsal tradition (take note theatre producers and quake!) is to provide a meal for the staff, artistes and crew throughout our stay! Martin in the Brick Lane Office believed we might just break the house record for the most to be found sitting around a lunch table in the theatre’s rehearsal history! We will wait and see!

The afternoon involved the cast being blocked through both Act One and Act Two in the back bar area, while Hayley took the dancers through routines on stage. When not involved in blocking a few of us went into corners to work out “three hander gags” on our own. The theme of the panto here is laughter is “top of the Bill”, but a lot of attention is going into the singing and dancing. Thankfully I am hardly involved in that! I’m bringing along my own number, one I’ve done in a previous five pantomimes- I rewrite the words each time to localise it, and give thanks to Dear John (Inman) and Barry (Howard) who originated the idea behind it when they turned “Copa” into “Co-op”, and very kindly said I could do their original version back in 1984 I think it was?

The lunch table was extremely long (not a record yet!) and we had roast beef, potatoes, green beans followed by a bakewell pudding and chocolate custard. I rest my case! Actually, Rusty Goffe and I rested our bodies- but no peace for the thespians- we returned to blocking and sorting gags. Broke at five and I headed for the Docklands Light Railway in exotic Pontoon Dock!

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I’ll blog as we go along along this journey to Opening night, which is on Saturday, and then here and then beyond!

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One Comment
  1. Johng425 permalink

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