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Saturday 7th February- Benidorm to Brick Lane!

February 8, 2015

DSC02463_0011-1024x685 Saturday 7th January The week has flown. To date we’ve played two Tea matinees, Two Lunch Matinees and now a packed to the rafters Evening Show. Joys of the week were the choral singing from the Salvation army, and getting a message in the interval from the party accompanying the man I picked to be my “Boyfriend” telling me he was actually a Reverend, and delighted! It has been a week of Birthdays – including Kate Young our Musical Director- a huge chocolate cake was presented to her during the interval along with the Salvation Army serenading her with “Happy Birthday” during the show! DSC02531_001-1024x737 I’ve been out nearly every night at a Birthday meal this week, and as a consequence it is an almighty struggle to squeeze into my costumes! I feel very sorry for Steph, and Lottie, Alan, Hollie..Zara.. in fact everyone involved in trying to get me into one of the quick changes! The “Be Good To Yourself” range of foods starts today! DSC02748_001-1024x669 We’ve had some very jolly shows- good to see Brian Walker in on Thursday- Brian will be out with the Brick Lane “Outreach” shows shortly, accompanied by Michael Topping. A visit too from Sherrie Hewson- Sherrie arrived straight from the set of ITV’s “Loose Women” to catch the show on Friday, and then joined Vincent, Andrew (Robley) and Andrew (Ryan) and myself for a meal at Joe Allens. 016 Sherrie & I have only recently finished pantomime at The New Theatre Hull- Sherrie was Empress Joyce Temple-Savage, and I was Widow Twankey! The audiences loved the references to Loose Women and  Benidorm- which is currently on TV every Friday, and a joy to watch each week! We had a quick medicinal G&T- Andrew, Vincent & Me before setting off for the West End- about half an hour away from Silvertown. 029 Not been to “Joes” in a while- Way way back I was resident pianist at the restaurant/club for Actors- “Macreadies” in Mercer Street, opposite the Cambridge Theatre. I had recently arrived in London and it was a great job- playing from about 6.30pm until about midnight I recall. It was then the ONLY place to be seen! Then Joe Allens opened with the wonderful Jimmy as pianist, and the theatrical diners moved there over the next couple of years. Macreadies as it looks now. Macreadiessite I had a great time playing at “Macreadies”- sitting at the piano looking out at the crowds waiting at the Stage Door of the Cambridge Theatre for autographs- The skater John Currie used to stand there for an hour each night signing. Inside the casts of the west End Shows would dine before or more often straight after their curtain came down, along with friends and agents. So many stars, I can’t name them all- Victor Spinetti and Joan Turner stand out as regulars all those many years ago! 022 023 024 025 026 027 We all had a very jolly night at “Joes” yesterday, with Sherrie providing false moustaches that we all had to wear- looking for all the world like the cast of “’Ello ‘Ello” on a secret mission! Ran into Chris Jarvis who was at the next table. Chris was rehearsing his Richmond panto in the same place as Sherrie & me this November, so we were able to catch up on how both seasons had gone. Strange that it is early Feb and while discussing the very recent panto that we’ve just finished, I’ve had news on the next panto. Too early to say yet, I’ll save that for later on – but I am very delighted! I got “The Call” while in the interval here at Brick Lane Music Hall, dressed in a silver mini dress, white bob wig and answering to the name of “Lady Gaga”! 004 I loved that picture I put on last blog with Rusty and my “God-dog” Coda. Coda was delighted to meet my Brick Lane Friends. Rusty has a new puppy, and his days off are spent walking him around a four mile circuit of his local Country Park. Here’s a picture I came across the other day of Rusty with Freddie Lees. Rusty & Freddie Aladdin Freddie telephoned during our interval, he is currently resting up in Wimbledon, and it was great to have a catch-up, and to put him on to Rusty on the phone for a chat. This picture is from an “Aladdin” pantomime they did together. Here’s a picture from the Autumn of Rusty, his son Ben and the BLMH cast. RustyBenBLMH So many pantomime memories. Here I’ve continued the “Babes In The Wood” history – thanks to Sherrie, in fact. Miss Hewson asked me about the Pantomime story of “Babes In The Wood”, so I thought I’d oblige. So here goes! Here is the FIRST HALF! BABES IN THE WOOD babes1942 The Pantomime versions differ from one production to another, but generally the story line is fairly consistent. This Pantomime has two stories in fact- almost two separate tales: that of the Babes In The Wood, and the Tale of Robin Hood. They are joined together by the device of Robin Hood discovering the two babes in Sherwood forest, not generally for the first time, but certainly taking them under his protection, and in revealing the villainy of their Uncle, he also regains his rightful title as Earl Of Huntingdon by the end of the pantomime. The babes are safe-and wealthy- and Robin is no longer an outlaw by the final curtain. The Village of Sherwood/The Town Square of Nottingham The Opening Scene would most likely be set  in the village, or the town square. Colourful dancers- in some productions a Maypole dance, in others the villagers sell their wares. The Characters are introduced. The plot would be set: The arrival of the two babes- boy and girl into the village. Maid Marion is often the cousin of the babes, and in some older versions she would be employed as their nurse. Into this  story line, when the Sheriff had met the babes for the first time, the details of their late Father’s will would be revealed. The babes would inherit their Father’s estate and wealth when they “come of Age”. The Sheriff is therefore their guardian. However- should anything happen to the babes- if they should both die- Their Uncle would inherit everything! babesBrightonHippo babesEmeryJames The Brighton Hippodrome is currently in danger of demolition. This 1,400 seater theatre used to house the major tours and pantomimes, before becoming a Bingo Hall, and recently it has been left to decline for seven years. There’s an online petition to save this building which will be sent to Brighton Council if you’d care to do this! Robin Hood in pantomime has always had a strong singing role, and opportunities for rousing songs, ballads and love duets abound. Often Robin’s Merry Men would provide a chorus to many of  his numbers. DSC02523_001-200x300 If The Good & Bad Robbers are the “top Turns” in the panto, they would have most certainly appeared in the opening scene. the Robbers would establish their characters- one a bit of a bully, the other a bit of a simpleton- but clever with it!- and certainly both of them cowards. They set out their store to rob, pillage, maim and murder, and rapidly employ comic cross-talk and double act routines. In this frontcloth they would most likely meet the Sheriff, who will outline his plot. They will be employed to take the “sweet babes” deep into the forest, and kill them both. babesGrandWolves1 babesGrandWolves2 Earlier I’d mentioned The Schoolroom Scene, with Dame, Comic and Robbers. The Dame and Babes would also be involved in a Nursery Scene at some point. This would be a scene to feature the Dame preparing to go to bed. The traditional dame “Strip Routine” would probably be found here, with Nurse Glucose divesting herself of a multitude of garments, corsets and kitchen appliances! The Babes might be brought to the nursery by Maid Marion (and possibly Robin Hood- although he would be in danger of being discovered inside the Sheriff’s Castle). It is likely the Dame would read the children a story, with many interruptions for requests for glasses of water. babesHughieEdmonton babesHughieEdmonton1 Some versions might incorporate a “Haunted Bedroom” scene here, but more often that might be found in the second half, or set in a spooky part of the forest. Finally the Dame might have a moment of “Pathos”, and sing the babes to sleep. As she tiptoes away she might whisper “Nighty-Nighty”, to which the babes would most definitely reply “Pajama-Pajama!”.  babesWimbledonGordonJay2 babesWimbledonlesleyjudd

This Wimbledon version had the comedy duo Gordon & Bunny Jay as Robbers- I had a great Summer Season with them in 1978 (I was a child performer… well.. I was young…!) and as “Babe” in this panto you can see Blue Peter’s Lesley Judd billed! The First Half Finale: Pantomime plots vary from one production to another.  In some versions directly after the Babes fall asleep in their nursery, the “speciality” act is introduced under the pretext of “The Babes Dream”- this could be a  toyland scene, a speciality involving puppets or U.V (Black Light) dancers Many pantomimes will conclude Act One with the essential plot- the Babes being taken into the Wood. In older versions this was certainly the case. However- the plot for the Babes themselves is thin. This is the reason the Robin Hood story was “tagged-on” in the 1880’s- and in some modern versions you might well find the babes do not get taken into the forest until a quarter way through act two. babeswindsorcooney1961

Deep In The Forest: In our  imaginary version, the Babes  meet the Sheriff who promises them a special treat- they are to go  with  their “bodyguards”- the two robbers- into the woods to pick berries. (the same ruse used in both “Hansel and Gretel” and “Snow White”). The Robbers take the two children into the woods, and are duty bound to kill them. One robber finds he cannot do this- the children are sent off stage, and they begin a fight,.Two of the finest exponents of “The Duelling Routine” were Hope and Keen. As Robbers they had perfected a brilliant and well executed routine involving the two of them.

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Here’s an interesting photo I came across- Mr Penny. He would appear to be a gentleman playing a lady playing a Gentleman in the Role of Robin Hood. Circa 1930. I wonder if anyone can enlighten us on his career? Back to The Robbers… At the end of the duel, with both of them of one mind- they cannot kill the babes- they abandon the children to fend for themselves, and set back to Nottingham to report they have “Done the deed” to the Sheriff. The Birds: The babes wander until they are totally lost. At this point the Fairy will appear, and summon  the birds to protect the children from the dark, cold night. As in the original ballad the birds will cover the sleeping children with leaves. Traditionally a flying ballet would take place. The Victorian productions  often had dozens of chorus ladies flying across the stage, dressed as birds. In the auditorium a set of “Auditorium chorus” would swoop low over the heads of the audience at the same time. Showers of glittering leaves would be dropped on to the sleeping children. Grand productions might reveal a waterfall effect in the woods. Possibly as the children slept the figure of Robin Hood might be seen crossing a bridge over “Curries Waterfall Effects” to discover the children as the curtain falls.  DSC02531_001-1024x737 Then- The Interval!

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