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Brick Lane Panto 2016: The Blog!

January 17, 2016


Twelve days after leaving Llandudno, it was time to head on the Docklands Light Railway and Sunny Silvertown in East London for Brick Lane Rehearsals!

This year the panto for grown-ups will be “Jack and his Giant Stalk!”

This year’s Llandudno was my third at that lovely venue, and this year’s Brick lane Panto is also my third time here. There’s a pattern emerging here! The previous panto here was based on Babes In The Wood, and before that it was Dick Whittington. It is not only the subject that has changed though- Dame Betty and Dame Vera have transformed this year into Poison Ivy- I am in fact the glamorous villainess of the piece! It’s what you might call “Wicked!”


A glimpse of what’s to come. Make up test underway!

Say Hello to the company!

This year I’m back with the regular BLMH cast, headed by the founder and creator of this glorious theatre, Vincent Hayes MBE. Vincent is directing this show (co written with Paul James) and will be giving his Silly Billy, and also his Golden Hen- versitility is the keyword here at Brick Lane!

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Rusty Goffe returns this year for fun and frolics in a surprise role, and Andrew Robley, direct from the Cruise ship where he performed over New Year will be giving his debut Dame- Dame Trott. He is preparing to don the wig and tights and work alongside an old cow. No- not me-Nigel Ellacott. I’m “Poison Ivy” remember, a sort of cross between Eartha Kitt and that Auntie you never talk about! So far it is great fun being evil- I learned a lot from working with James Barron and a few others!


A traditional Music Hall Panto for grown-ups needs a traditional Principal boy-played, of course by a girl! We have Lottie Johnson in the title role. Lottie was Robin Hood last year, and now no longer has to wear green for the season! Catherine Dennison is choreographing the show, and appearing in it alongside Tommy Knapp. Our Principal Girl, Jill is Lucy Reed.

The final cast members are Hettie Hobbs who plays our operatic Good Fairy and Chris Draper who plays Muddles. No “Jack” could be complete without Daisy The Cow- and this one person feat (or hoof?) is performed by Sam Sadler.

The Musical Director once again is Kate Young, assisted during our rehearsals by David Harvey. We will be joined next week by Percussionist Andy Pook.

Stage Management is in the hands of Rhys Mann, with Sound and lighting by Brick Lane’s resident Stage Technical whiz, Anthony Friggens. Scenery created by Chris Floyd,  assisted by Eleanor Jennings, Bea, Laura and Prosun.


During “Fit up” week the lighting is designed, rigged and focused by Kevin Roach.

Running the whole show, designing & producing and is Theatre Manager Zara Kattan, and costumes made once again by Frank Kershaw.


Frank at the over-locker!

Wigs provided and dressed by Stevie Metcalf


 During the week Joanne Hayes has been in taking photographs for the Brick Lane Music Hall’s website which features backstage news. Here’s the link:

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During rehearsals the telephone can be heard ringing in the BLMH office taking bookings, all handled by Charlie and Thom. I think we could be looking at a total sell-out!

Throughout rehearsal week everyone is fed, and very well fed by Chef Salem , assisted by Jupe.

Tuesday 12th -Friday 15th January 2016

This week we’ve been gathering at 10.30am to rehearse. we’ve mostly been working on the floor of the Music Hall, leaving the stage to Chris and his scenery, and to Kevin and Anthony to rig the lighting and the gauzes.

lucy and Sam with Tommy

The script is a flexible thing here at BLMH. Vincent likes to see what additional comedy can be wrought out of the action, and any additional bits of comedy “business” are added on the way. Often during the performance! You never see exactly the same show twice here!

Catherine running through the dance moves. Rusty..not running!

The script got added to from the first hour, and the skeleton of a running order began to take place. During the day Kate and David took the singers away to select harmony and rehearse numbers- comedy and music are the mainstays of the show. Catherine will set dance routines later in the week. The rest of us ran through scenes, leaving gaps for numbers, and Frank called folk for costume fittings throughout Tuesday and Wednesday.

 Chris and Vincent rehearse. Joined by Andrew.

Food is the welcome break here- provided by Salem from Brick Lane’s kitchens. Each day the table gets longer as more of us appear to put the show on!


By Thursday Frank had finished. Normally I was would be unloading about eight or nine costumes that I’d brought with me. This year I have the luxury of having the main costume, a sequinned slinky gown in black/midnight blue made by Frank! I’ve just brought three “Robes” to put over this- yes they are pretty glitzy- and I’ve provided a finale. Justy one wig and two headdresses. After the 36 changes a day at Llandudno, this is my busman’s holiday! I might actually get to sit down during a show!

Anthony putting the technical touches together!

Below: Oscar and Prosun with Eleanor.

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Andrew has quite a few changes of costume and wigs. Stevie Metcalf called in to dress a few Dame wigs, and spent a jolly day with us. The props started to appear in the auditorium, and we started to use them as the need arose. The odd Golden Egg, bag of gold, the usual!

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By Thursday we were incorporating the musical numbers into the show, and by Friday we had the choreography set by Catherine. As head girl she will be having a busy panto season!

So- we have the comedy routines, including a very funny Kitchen scene, and a few surprises in store for the audiences, we were well on the way after only four days.

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Joanne called in to take some photos and asked me if this was my villainess debut. My first Panto Baddie. Those twenty eight years of Ugly Sister have stood me in good stead!

Being an “Ugly” helps the “Poison Ivy” Villain a great deal. Uglies have to balance comedy with being evil  on a knife edge, otherwise they just get boo-oed throughout all their funny bits! Ivy is a lot posher than I was as Sharon, or Tracey, or Scary or Sporty- she’s definately Scary Posh! I feel though that at heart she’s still as common as muck! We’ll see!


For now, it’s Friday Night- Oh bless, that reminds me of Ed “Stewpot” Stewart who passed away this week. I did Croydon panto with him, and one other- and both he and Jan Hunt were stalwarts of BBC TV’s children’s programme- “It’s Friday, It’s Five to Five.. It’s CRACKERJACK!”

Yes it IS Friday night here in Brick Lane. We are off now until Monday to get all the lyrics and the words into the brain, and we all meet up afain for Monday when we will run on stage. We open on Tuesday 19th January with a tea time show!


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