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January 15, 2015


BRICK LANE: THE BLOG 2015  BABES IN THE WOOD  Tuesday 13th January 2015  001

On Monday afternoon Josh from Qdos delivered the costumes from my Hull “Aladdin” and from Andrew Ryan’s Nottingham Pantomime- “Snow White”. We spent the best part of the day sorting, washing and putting them back onto rails, and putting the wigs back on their shelves. The difference being, I was also pulling out costumes, wigs and accessories to take with me for my second panto of the year- The Brick Lane Music Hall’s “Babes In The Wood”. Rehearsals starting the very next day. 005

A few points of information before I start the “Babes” blog proper- Brick Lane’s Music Hall Pantomime is for grown-ups. It plays matinee shows with afternoon tea, or Lunchtime shows with the Panto for Grown-ups following lunch, or Evening shows where we follow a good old British three course meal, some drinks and a very jolly evening ensues! Except we don’t get the drinks! Brick Lane Music Hall is NOT in Brick Lane! It is in Silvertown, next to London’s City Airport, occupying a former Church of St. Marks. It is the third incarnation and the creation of the founder Vincent Hayes MBE. Vincent presents Entertainment here on an almost daily basis with themed shows throughout the year, with the Tea, Lunch and Meals format. Just yesterday he hosted a late New Year’s Eve black tie extravaganza here at Brick Lane to a sold out house. 013

Vincent Hayes MBE reposes

This year the script for”Babes” arrived Christmas Week. Have to admit I only had a quick glance that week, to work out what costumes I would need, and left the reading to the following week, and have looked at it on trains, tubes and in Hotels. 011

Andrew & Me

Followers of last year’s “Betty’s Blog” from Brick Lane will know the set up, and recognise the Brick Lane Family of regulars. This year I am playing Dame Vera. Nothing to do with The White Cliffs of Dover (that Dame Vera came from about three miles away from this very building!). This Vera runs the village school and looks after the somewhat big for their age Babes, and attempts to keep order in what promises to be a very rowdy Schoolroom scene. !

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Vincent plays Everard, who has a mission in the Village, The Sheriff is played by Andrew Robley, and The Babes themselves- Richard and his Sister Fanny are played by Paul James and Hayley-Jo Whitney. Add the expert talents of Rusty Goffe as Big John, and you have last year’s Panto cast returning once again, along with Stephanie Sen returning to the terpsichorean trade 015

Stephanie, Alan & Hayley-Jo

No strangers to these walls, Will Scarlet is played by regular Alan McHale, joined by Lottie Johnson as Principal Boy Robin Hood, Catherine Dennison as Maid Marion, and Laura Hayward joining Stephanie and setting the numbers. Production co-ordinator Zara Kattan is in charge of the smooth flowing of the production- and the huge task of coordinating the props and costumes which, once again are being created by Frank Kershaw. frank Kershaw Frank found time this Summer to make several stunning costumes for the Kenneth More Pantomime this season


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Looking after the technical side of the pantomime we have Anthony Friggens, who is surrounded by some hugely impressive state of the art equipment that has augmented the Brick Lane auditorium recently. From giant powerful but subtle speakers to all the LED lighting, and seems to make everything work in Mission Control at the back of the theatre up on high, by manipulating an iPad from wherever he happens to be sitting! The Musical Director is Kate Young The Stage Management team this season are Eleanor Jennings, assisted by Prosun

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. Over the Christmas season Brick Lane underwent a fabulous transformation. The Music Hall auditorium, bar and foyer have been transformed into a Victorian Winter Wonderland of Woodland meets Circus. It looks as if Santa raided Hamley’s and every cute and fluffy animal, and every Horse, Tiger, Monkey and Parrot has been installed throughout.

Add to this the amazing new lighting inside, and it really is stunning. I believe Frank, Zara,  Joanne Hayes and everyone who works here contributed to the setting up.

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While on the subject of the Hayes Dynasty- joining her Dad at BLMH this year has been Vincent’s daughter Lucy. Lucy can be found in the admin office with Martin. She will be heading off to University shortly. It was the seven year old Lucy who put her hand up to answer a question in the Primary School where Peter Robbins, Andrew Ryan and myself were doing the Panto Roadshow, and announced that her Dad knew Danny La Rue! Further question revealed Lucy’s Dad ran a theatre- the original Brick Lane Music Hall, and that Peter and I had worked with him many times on tours! 004 008

Back to the plot… plot isn’t the main characteristic of a BLMH Panto though- it is all about having a good night out! We started rehearsing at 10.30am today (Tuesday) in the auditorium, going through all the music numbers with Kate after a couple of read-throughs of said script. I’ve already brought in five costumes for the show, and five wigs. They look very compact and wee compared to last week’s quick change room in Hull, and my fourteen costumes crammed in there. I will have two each half and a finale, which fortunately is Pink. I just happen to have one to hand! Almost brand new, one previous panto! 014

Rusty has also just finished panto- he was The Wonderful Wizard in Northampton, and has followed the yellow brick lane road home. (sorry- it IS still panto isn’t it?!). Andrew has been on the High Seas hitting High C’s or B Flats on the cruise liners, and has literally just finished a concert in Madeira before arriving to these chilly streets of East London. My only number so far is “Kids” to open the schoolroom. It’s from a West End (and Broadway) show of the early 1960’s called “Bye Bye Birdie” starring Chita Rivera and featuring pop star of the era, Marty Wilde (Kim’s Dad) who played P.Boy a few times in his day . Wednesday 14th January

Called at 10.30am. Freezing cold outside. Lovely & warm in Furry animal land. 006

I know I have an opening routine to do (one of my own) a schoolroom, an “automation” style routine, and in act two a few scenes here and there, but I’m sure all will be expanded and revealed as Paul and Vincent take us through the blocking. Things tend to be created here rather than set in stone, so “work in progress” is the order of the day- and that is where the fun comes in! For me, personally, today held a magic few moments. We were well into staging “The Schoolroom”, following along the lines of a traditional schoolroom set-up, but with gags you would be unlikely to hear in a standard panto!. Well, you might, but just the once!

This scene always has a trick bench. The bench is created to drop the naughty lad off the end if he sits down when the rest of his classmates are not sitting firmly on it- or to fall off if they ALL stand up and he doesn’t. Vincent is our naughty boy. I have a swishy cane to threaten him with. Yes, he did sit on the bench. Yes it DID collapse as planned. YES, Andrew Robley was not au fait with that moment at that time and went flying off it as well!

When this happened a second time, and he landed flat on top of Vincent there wasn’t a dry eye in the house! A wonderful moment, I wish it had been captured on video.


So, a lot of singing has been done- not by me, but by most people- Frank is busy in Dressing Room Two creating and fitting the costumes, two sewing machines going full belt- Zara is gathering lists of extra props required, I’m trying to make a frock behave itself by unpicking the hem & fixing the crinoline wire hoop, Joanne is taking arty photographs for the Brick Lane Website, Kate is playing the keyboard, Anthony is doing magical things with a different sort of keyboard,

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Hayley Jo and Paul James are making the script saucier by the minute, and all is well in This Winter Wonderland. Here’s the amazing bit about rehearsals- we get fed. Every day. Chef wheels in trolleys of wonderful food- the long tables fill up with starving theatre folk, and this table gets longer as more people join us each day. Every day free food? Paradise for thespians! Today’s sausage, mash, lashings of veg, onion gravy followed by ice-cream… Thank you Mr Hayes and all who sail in you! Call tomorrow 10.30am to start blocking Act Two- Act One has been blocked and set now, so onwards and upwards!

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