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Betty’s Saturday Blog 8th February 2014

February 12, 2014

Tonight the Brick Lane Music Hall had a full house, with several parties, a hen party and a lot of birthdays! Much fun was had by all- to the extent we over-ran a bit, as a good party tends to do! In fact the ladies of the Hen “do” were great- and I think they chose well for their East End night out. Vincent had them in stitches in his opening set, and it sort of carried on from there.

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I still cannot over emphasise the effect of the “Busy Bee” routine. It really works the audience up into a frenzy of laughter as Andrew and Paul face off with mouths full of water. It was never one of my favourite routines over the years, and it seemed to vanish with each passing year, but as a silly set piece it has them screaming with laughter. I have to follow it too- damn!

We had a lot of fun this evening, and I got home at around midnight. A bit of a part timer next week- no show now until Wednesday Matinee. Not so for Vincent, Paul, Saskia and Andrew though, and the same for David & Andy- they, along with Michael and Zara will be all hands to the deck for a Music Hall Show on Tuesday, to ring in the changes.

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They were most certainly an appreciative lot tonight and at the end some of them gave us a stood ovation- either that or they were rushing to get their coats, but it was very much appreciated. A meal, a drink and a show- takes me back to the days when London had nightclubs and revues. I personally don’t remember the likes of “Winstons” and “Churchills” clubs- having said that there is a great trip through clubland in our “spotlight on Danny La Rue” and our Spotlight on Jan Hunt” to be found in articles: Paul James our Captain Norfolk worked these clubs, as did Rusty Goffe.

Rusty some of you may know is a multi instrumentalist. There’s hardly anything he can’t play! A talented bloke is Rusty, and a slick cabaret artiste. Look what I came across the other day while persusing the great musical acts of our times-Paderewski,  Liberace, Mrs Mills, Bobby Crush and our Rusty! Like Andrew’s billing to be found in the Brick Lane lavatory, Rusty has a hit on the backside too! Whatever happened to vinyl?

Rusty Goffe Vinyl  Rusty Goffe Vinyl3  Rusty GoffeVinyl

“The Bells Of St. Mary’s”- also the name of a now almost forgotten Panto routine- where the cast are assembled to be a choir, and one by one they sing off key and are taken away. There is the sound of gunfire and the choir leader returns alone. I’ve not done it since err.. 1978 I think! The tune, as played by Mr Goffe brings back memories of playing it alongside those masters of comedy Gordon & Bunny Jay in Summer Season on glass bottles filled with water- “Musical Bottles” at The Grand Scarborough! Happy days!

Rusty’s son Ben, our fight director has just finished playing Captain in his panto version of Dick Whittington. The panto subject is having a bit of a revival. John Barrowman and the Krankies, Sheila Reid, Dame Edna, Joan Collins, they’ve all appeared in “Dick Whittington”- I thought it was about time to shed a little light on the chap himself, and the panto- Welcome to the IBY world of “Dick Whittington”!

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Richard Whittington was born somewhere around 1350, possibly in Gloucester. He wasn’t a poor lad at all, but the son of a wealthy Alderman, Sir Richard Whittington of Pauntley. His son dealt in textiles and became a wealthy shipping merchant- so wealthy he leant vast sums to King Henry IV and Henry VI, founded the WhittingtonSchool in London, rebuilt Newgate Prison and did many charitable works.

He did marry an Alice Fitzwaryn, and under Richard II became “Thrice” Lord Mayor of London in 1397, 1406 and 1419. Sadly nearly all his good works were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. He was a legend well before then, as witnessed by Samuel Pepys who wrote in his diary in 1668:

 “To Southwark Fair, very dirty, and there saw the puppet show of Whittington, which was pretty to see

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At Brick Lane Saskia Brynne plays a very traditional Principal Boy as “Dick Whittington”, short tunic, fishnet tights and a bit of swashbuckling and thigh slapping to boot!

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Dorothy Ward as Dick Whittington- by co-incidence signed “to Betty”- No I wasn’t there, honestly!

Dick’s Cat-here at Brick Lane portrayed by Andrew Robley– his  traditional name is“Tommy” (from a male-Tom Cat) seems to have been tacked on to the story much later. One possible answer to the importance of a moggy is that sailing ships carrying coal were called “Cats” at the time- and Dick Whittington made his fortune owning a merchant fleet.

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Albert Felino & Fred Whittaker as Tommy The Cat. Circa 1900’s.

Another theory is the French word for a purchase “achat” might have got tangled up in his legend. By the time Newgate prison was rebuilt (under the terms of his will) a cat was carved over the gate. There is a statue today of Dick’s Cat on Highgate Hill, London where the fairytale has it he returned to the City.

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Nigel Havers as King Rat

King Rat is an arch villain- Rusty Goffe plays him here at the Music Hall. It is not difficult to see how the arch nemesis of London would find its way into Dick’s story. Rats caused the great plague of London in 1665 and the spectre of this made King Rat the ideal villain for a tale set in London.

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Principal girl Alice- Anna Campkin in our version,  can trace her name back to the historical past- she was the daughter of a merchant who married Dick Whittington.

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The Dame is traditionally called Sarah The Cook in this panto- although at Brick Lane my Dame Betty obviously married a Mr Swallocks after she was widowed, and is now widowed again. She’s not had much luck!

The Captain and Mate played at Brick Lane by Paul James and Hayley-Jo Whitney feature in most versions of the Dick Whittington legend, here’s picture of popular double act Drew & Alders in the role.

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and at some point someone had the bright idea of tying up the Cockney element of London with the Fairy’s traditional name- Fairy Bow Bells! Our Fairy here is Ellie Self. Here’s a picture of the Cockney Barbara Windsor in the role.

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Nice to think “Dick Whittington” is one of a rare number of home spun, British Folk tales that made it into Pantomime today. The others are “Jack & The Beanstalk”, “Robin Hood” & “The Babes In The Wood” and “Robinson Crusoe”.

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