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Betty’s Posh Blog!

March 4, 2014

Tuesday 4th March 2014

A Posh Blog? Indeed, Brick lane Music Hall is a posh place, and today we had not one but TWO MBE’s in Dressing Room Number one- but I’m calling this a Posh Blog because of a Historical “Dick Whittington” I’m featuring today. More of that later!

Arrived for a Matinee Tea. A lovely crowd in from Stevenage, from East Ham and as always, from Kent. We had a WI group in, led by a lady called Betty, so who knows, we might even be sisters!

Visitors to the pantomime today included Anne Galbraith and Stevie Marc. Annie is a regular contributer and visitor to Brick Lane with her many friends. She was Danny La Rue’s constant companion, costumier and friend for over thirty years, and this building holds many memories here. Stevie Marc is a performer and costumier- he has many pantomimes under his belt as “Ugly Sister”, and has costumed and be-wigged very many productions of “La Cage Aux Folles” around the country.

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The Green Room. David, Gary, Saskia & Ellie Relax

The world of costume is small, and sitting nearby was my friend Rodney Worth. Rodney surprised me by arriving here to see the show for belated Birthday greetings! Rodney has been Wardrobe Master on quite a few pantomimes I’ve been in, including the Hippodrome Birmingham, and spends most of the year working at Covent Garden at the Opera House. He thoroughly enjoyed his first visit to Brick Lane Panto, and left us to head off to see another “Dame”- the fabulous Angela Lansbury in “Blithe Spirit” tonight! Two Dames in a day. Not bad, eh?

Also visiting was the celebrated “Punch & Judy” Man, John Styles. John was presented with the MBE in 2003 for his services to the Arts, especially Punch & Judy. This art form, now over 345 years old is a dying art, and John keeps it alive with performances and lectures and demonstrations all over the place. As President of The International Brotherhood of Magicians, and founding member of the Punch & Judy Fellowship, and the Punch & Judy College of Professors, he has travelled to Belgium, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Holland, Canada, The USA and to Singapore, Qatar and now North Woolwich Road!

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John was in the Brick Lane’s recent Christmas Wonderland Show. The Dressing room therefore had two MBE’s and something like Five members of the Grand Order Of Water Rats  and a Dame at one point! In the words of Pulchinello- “That’s The Way To Do It!”

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The Visitors haven’t stopped yet. Delighted to see Music Hall Artiste supreme Judith Hibbert, her son Ross Tomlinson, and gorgeous Collie “Bertie” in today. I didn’t ask, but any Music Hall aficionado with a dog named “Bertie” MUST have named him after “Burlington Bertie From Bow” surely? A lovely doggie not in the window, but in the office during the show, and Tommy The Cat and Betty had to visit to say hello!

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Judith is no stranger to Pantomime- She has played Principal boy on many occasions, included one with Stanley Baxter and with Rikki Fulton at Glasgow. Her Fairy was seen in London at Richmond Theatre, playing opposite Su Pollard. Ross will be joining Vincent’s Brick Lane “Irish” show as a vocalist- It starts rehearsals very soon. My goodness yes- we finish on Saturday!

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Bertie Backstage!

Now while some of us get to rest up tomorrow and Thursday, the others will be appearing in two Music Hall matinees. A full week for Vincent, Paul, Andrew, David, Andy and Gary, and a very busy week for Zara, Martin, Natalie and Suzanne.

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Billy No Mate- Paul.

Today’s show was certainly different. I’d call it the “On Your Toes” show. We’ve known for a long time that Hayley-Jo would not be here for today’s show. When she was approached to step in and play Mate during the last few days of rehearsals, she had this day booked. It is a follow on from her recent “Specsavers” advert. Since we’ve been up and running for so long, it seemed a bit disruptive to rehearse another artiste in to the show, so Paul offered to run solo. So, for this show, and this show only the Captain never had a mate. He was “Billy No Mate”, plain Captain Norfolk. (No longer a double act called- wait for it.. “Norfolk and Goode”).

He had rehearsed with David the two numbers, turning them from duet to solo, and altered dialogue accordingly. All went EXTREMELY well! Good on you Mr James! No one would have guessed. In fact, no one did. Yes, there were a few odd lines where one of us saw it coming and jumped in with the line, but on the whole it sailed through without the need of a rehearsal. The only bit we all forgot, and it was a truly “magical” moment was the bit where Betty Marries her man of the day, and Paul announces a Triple Wedding, and turns to Hayley Jo and asks her to marry him.

As that moment arrived there was a heartbeat. a micro moment and Paul turned to Fairy Ellie and asked her to marry him. She was surprised, but delighted! And.. she said Yes! All ended Happily Ever After here at Brick Lane! Congratulations Paul James!

Had a lovely long chat yesterday with Panto Dame and my mate Brian Godfrey. Brian has been poorly over Christmas, but is now back to his old self and hugely busy helping his mate Ray Cooney with the direction of “Two into One” which opens at London’s Menier Chocolate Factory on Saturday! They are into their tech week as from today, and I will be heading to see it next week. It is full of all my chums! Jeff Holland, Kathryn Rooney, Jean Fergusson, and Nick Wilton.Brian himself and Mr Cooney will be spotted in the piece I believe ! It stars Michael Praed and his wife Josefina Gabrielle and runs from 8th March to the 26th April! A must see show this!

Now talking of MUST SEE shows- here is a Dick Whittington I wish I had seen. Back in the 1950’s the prestigious Bristol Old Vic had seasons of plays and each year finished with a pantomime. Everyone in the Rep Company appeared in the annual Pantomime. Two pantomimes from the Bristol Old Vic must surely have the most prestigious cast list in Pantoland. The  “Dick Whittington” from 1955  had international film stars and household television names of the future disguised as Dames, Principal Boys and Cats!

These established classical actors and actresses excelled in Shakespeare, Shaw and Checkov here at the Old Vic, and some were established Royal Shakespeare Players and film stars from the 1930’s- but here in pantoland they combined to make up the most impressive Panto Bills of the era.

The Poshest Dick Whittington!

The Theatre Royal Bristol possibly produced the poshest pantomimes in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s! Here is their “Dick Whittington” from 1956 which ran into February. To be fair the Bristol Old Vic was a very prestigious Rep, and the actors were already at the top of their repertory profession- but stardom in some cases was yet to follow  “Cross Cast” through the season, they appeared in plays which could range from Shakespeare to Ibsen or Checkov, and the panto also  utilised the pupils of the Old Vic School.

This cast is quite something!

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Sally and Britannia was played by Phyllida Law– later to become Emma Thompson’s Mum, and married to Eric “The Magic Roundabout” Thompson. She  has appeared on stage and in films including “Peter’s Friends”, “Cage Aux Folles” in the West End, “Anna Karenina”, “Much Ado”, “Dr Who”.. the list is endless.

Phyllida

Peter O’Toole, who died last December,  played Alderman and doubled as Mate in this “Dick Whittington”. This of course was before his International film career started three years after this show. Already a highly acclaimed Shakespearian actor here at the Bristol Old Vic he went on to star in “Lawrence Of Arabia, “, “Goodbye Mr Chips”, “The Ruling Classes”, and “The Lion In Winter” among many films. The most nominated actor by the Oscars, he married Sian Phillips and holds the reputation for one of Hollywood’s greatest hell raisers!

OToole

Eric Porter who played the Dame- Cicely Suet became famous on Television screens as Soames Forsyte in “The Forsyte Saga” watched by millions of viewers each week in the mid 1960’s. He won a Bafta for this role. He appeared in major Shakespearian productions on stage and screen, often with Derek Jacobi, and played Moriarty in the Granada Television series Sherlock Holmes.

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Eric Porter- with Nyree Dawn Porter and Kenneth More in “The Forsyte Saga”

Edward Hardwicke who played Simon and a Warden in this pantomime was born the son of Hollywood Actor Sir Cedric Hardwicke. He was well known as Dr Watson in the Granada Series of “Sherlock Holmes”and began his career in films as a child actor with Spencer Tracey in Hollywood. A member of Olivier’s National Theatre he starred in films such as “Day Of The Jackal” , “Shadowlands”, “Love Actually” and dozens more.

Alan Dobie who played the Cat  has enjoyed a 50 year career of over 117 productions. On television he starred as Inspector Cribb in his own series, and “The Plane Makers” for a year on our screens. Films include “War & Peace” and “The Charge Of The Light Brigade”, and starring roles at the Old Vic and the Royal Court. He was married to Rachel Roberts at this time- Rachel was to become a major film star and live in Hollywood .

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John Cairney who played Marmaduke and doubled as Sultan of Morocco has appeared in several major films including “Cleopatra” in 1963, “Jason & The Argonauts” and “A Night To Remember”, as well as a career in theatre and television that continued through into the 1990’s.

john cairney

Betty Huntley-Wright played Dick Whittington. She had already appeared in several films in the 1930’s before her Rep season here. She had played Principal Boy in 1934, 1939 and 1942. She later went on to play cameo roles in “Carry On Loving” in 1970 as well as Steptoe & Son and “FawltyTowers”!

Lally Bowers played Fairy Snowflake and  worked for every major Rep theatre in Britain including The Royal Shakespeare Company and appeared in sit coms during the 1970’s including “A Fine Romance”.

Lally Bowers

Derek Godfrey, stalwart of the Royal Shakespeare Company appeared in the film “The Ruling Class” before creating a niche in television through the 1960’s and ‘70’s- The Pallisers, Churchill’s People and Nicholas Nickelby

All in all a star studded bill in the making!

Friday will see the Stars Of Brick Lane Music Hall return for the Lunch time show, following the two Music Hall shows in between. Then… its the last one I’m afraid on Saturday Night!

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