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Valentines Day!


Our Talented lads- Jordan, Sam and Nathan with Paul James

Tuesday 13th Feb was a tea day- with a jam packed to the rafters house enjoying the show. It has completely sold out, which is great, but unfortunately even friends can’t get a space, as the spaces are gone!

We had three Brick Lane Veterans watching today. Ben Goffe’s Dad, the talented Rusty Goffe was here with Ben’s Mum Sarah- Sarah taught Ben, Nathan and Jordan at The Italia Conti Stage School, so it was very best “Nice Toes, Naughty Toes” today!


Here we are with Rusty, Ben and Chris Joining us in the Interval backstage

As well as Rusty, we were delighted to see Chris Draper and Ben Hutt back to the Brick Lane Family, after their adventures in Pantoland and in shows, including working with BLMH’s own Hetty Hobbs (Currently in “Phantom Of The Opera” ) in her concerts.

So Brick Lane Royalty joined us in the audience, and it was so good to catch up in the one hour interval between acts. *That is when the audience have their cream tea, incase you were wondering!



All thanks to this man- Vincent Hayes MBE- Brick Lane Music Hall was 26 years old this Monday February 12th 2018. Long may Brick Lane Reign!

Wednesday 14th: Valentines Day Tea Show.


A visit today from another Brick Lane Veteran, Tommy Knapp. Tommy has been on the high seas (hitting High C’s) in shows on magnificent Cruise Liners this year, and is once again heading off for the Carribbean. He joined us for the Panto this afternoon- Tommy was last in Brick Lane Panto the year before last- “Jack & The Beanstalk” I think it was. Great to see him again, and share the afternoon with him.


Tommy Knapp with The Brick Lane Gang.


Number Two Dressing Room with Tommy!

Also delighted to welcome back Steven Metcalf  today. Stevie did the wig work on this production of “Aladdin” during our rehearsal week, and today brought along Ryan Taylor who was recently in Pantomime at Scunthorpe.

So two great shows. And… In the spirit of “Valentines Day” a couple actually proposed to each other infront of our Music Hall audience just as the curtain rose on Act Two. Bob proposed to Frances The lady said “Yes!”. What a great day to remember!




Brick Lane Blitz!


A day off today- Just as well as London City Airport and its neighbouring areas were closed today. A 500kg World War Two Bomb was discovered during development works, with the Met Police closing the area, and the disruption to 16,000 passangers.


The Royal Navy at The Scene

It is a reminder of the Wartime Blitz that fell on Silvertown during the 1940’s. The Church of St. Marks- Now the home of Brick Lane Music Hall suffered when the rectory next door, belonging to The Reverend Stevens was destroyed. On its website there are photographs of the allotments grown on the bombed site in the 1950’s.



From Brick Lane’s website- photographs show the Reverend Stevens in an underground shelter with some of his parishioners.

This part of London, The Docks suffered months of bombing raids, and an incredible amount of damage. Today’s discovery is a reminder of that past.

Hopefully by tomorrow (Tuesday) The Royal Navy will have safely removed the device, and once again we will open our doors to a Tuesday Tea Time Panto. I’m sure, Like the famous Windmill Theatre in Soho, we too Will Never Close!



Friday 9th Feb: Sherrie Trifle!


Sherrie Hewson & Andrew Ryan at Brick Lane

Our Brick Lane Benidorm favourite, Sherrie Hewson popped in to see the Pantomime today. Since a Panto is all about joining in, we had little trouble persuading her to make a cameo appearance in Act Two, her lines attached to a clipboard in the guise of our Flight Attendant Sherrie Temple Savage!

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The audience had a great surprise, and we had a lot of fun, as you can imagine! Andrew Ryan joined Sherrie in the audience- they were both recently in “Beauty & The Beast” in Nottingham togather, where Andrew Directed and played Dame (For which I see he’s now been nominated in the GBPAwards).


Here is a sneaky video from the wings!


Had a great show, and a few drinks afterwards at the nearby Excel centre, before heading home. Sherrie is off tomorrow to join her friend Amanda Barrie to do some filming for Loraine on the Sunny South Coast.


Shelby and Sam backstage.

Tomorrow we have an evening show. I’m looking forward to the day off before the evening- The voice is a bit “ropey” and could do with keeping warm and keeping silent! never easy both of those!

Now, a few more of Twankey’s “Tit-Bits!” from History-


Andrew Robley at Brick Lane

When J.H.Byron christened his character “The Widow Twankay”, it would have made people laugh immediately. Twankay was a tea, popular in the 1860’s. This green tea (popular because it was one of the cheaper blends) came from the Chinese province of “TUAN KAY” (or “Tong-Ke” as it is sometimes called). It was the equivalent of calling his character “The Widow Ty-Phoo” or “The Widow Earl Grey” today!

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Stanley Baxter & John Inman

1861 J.H.Byron created the name “Widow Twankay”- she has no laundry still, but takes in “plain sewing”. She remained a “tailoress” throughout the next three decades.- in London that is. In 1885 she has a newspaper shop, and in 1891 she is still a tailoress.

Her name was also not firmly established- productions named her the “Widow Ching”, “Ching Ching” and even “Wee-Ping” (1881 Gaiety & 1885 at Sanger’s Theatre) a few odd exceptions include “Chow-Chow”and  “Tay-Kin” for example.

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John Inman & Martin Ballard

Outside of London Twankay had some success in the laundry- In Leeds in 1871 she has a wash-tub, in Sheffield she is “A Laundress eaten up with care” (1875) in Worcester in 1879 she does “washing, mangling and lodging for single men”- but she returns to London “In the wardrobe and laundry business” at the Grand Islington in 1889.- the same pantomime had “Wishee-Washee”- a family business was emerging!

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Nigel Ellacott at Hull

She is still however “Twankay” not “Twankey” as we now know her!

By the time Dan Leno played “Twankay” at Drury Lane in 1896 the Laundry scene was plainly established.Her name was also beginning to settle- “Twankay” at Hanley (1876) “Twanky” at Glasgow (1881) and Douglas on the Isle of Man had “TWANKEY” in 1871 and again at Sangers in London in 1874, in 1879 and Newcastle in 1885.


Byron’s version of  1861 established the “Dame” character as well as her name- before then the part had been played by women, but her costume was not always what we would expect. In the Victorian pantomime era one might have expected her to be dressed as an “English Char Woman”, but that tradition (now almost vanished in modern times) was broken almost immediately. Dressed in English style for Dan Leno in 1888, the character was dressed in Chinese style when next worn by Dan Leno in 1896, as she was dressed for Wilkie Bard (1909) and Stanley Lupino (1917).

Today we would expect Widow Twankey to be dressed in typical loud and often outrageous costumes, but with a concession to Chinese style- possibly with the enlarged Chinese collars, bobbles and frogging – and certainly we would expect her to have a “Laundry Costume” decorated with washing, washing lines and even soap powder boxes at some point.


The Brick Lane Gang at Breakfast!

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The Brick Lane Gang at Supper!

Tomorrow an Evening Show starting at 9pm.


Feb 8th. Twankey’s Tit Bits!


Another packed tea time matinee today, the third show of the week- and a very lovely standing ovation at the end, which was a heartwarming sight!

Yesterday Vincent, Andrew Robley, Andrew Ryan  and I joined our mate Sherrie Hewson for a meal in Town, to catch up on things Benidorm. Sherrie is going out with a National Tour of a stage version of the hit series, “Benidorm Live” along with Jake Canuso, Tony Maudsley, Janine Duvitski, Adam Gillen and Shelley Longworth.IMG_5078

Here we all are with Danny Vanderpump, Manager at Balans Soho Society.

Sherrie’s tour takes her all over the country with the Stage Show- it seems only a week or so since she was in Nottingham’s Theatre Royal in “Beauty & The Beast” with Andrew Ryan. Hopefully we will catch up again on Friday.


Lucy as Aladdin with Nathan, Sam and Jordan.

Brick Lane’s Pantomime is one for the grown-ups, but it does adhere to the the traditional storyline and the features you’d expect in a Panto- in fact we have a very traditional Principal Boy played by Lucy Reed, and all the stock characters from the original story. Talking of which, what WAS the original story? I quote from this website’s Panto Storybook!

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The tale of “Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp” originates as one story in the epic “1001 Nights” or “Arabian Nights”.

This collection of stories was first recorded in the 9th Century, with tales brought together from China, India, Egypt, Iraq, Iran and places in the East. In 942 AD the collection contained only 264  stories. It is believed that others, including “Aladdin” were added later during European translations in the 18th Century, when the number  increased.

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Originally these tales were supposed to be the stories told by Scheherazade to her husband, the King. The King, set on revenge after his first wife was unfaithful to him, decided to marry each day, and execute his wife the next morning. Not surprisingly the wives were in short supply, and it became the turn of the Vizier’s daughter, Scheherazade.

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Scheherazade hit on a plan to remain alive for as long as possible, and each night would tell her husband a thrilling story, promising to complete it the following day. Eventually, after 1001 nights of entertaining stories the King abandoned his cruel plot, and Scheherazade was saved.


The above is part of a 1920’s Aladdin Toy Theatre I have in my collection

The Three Wishes

The legend of someone being granted three magical wishes dates back to the 3rd Century AD. “The Book of Sindibad” in the 9th Century AD  is in part the framework of the “Arabian Nights”, in which the tale of “Aladdin” appears.


Why “Twankey”. Why is it set in China not Arabia?

The Pantomime true origin happened when the great pantomime author Henry J.Byron wrote his burlesque “Aladdin, or The Wonderful Scamp” performed at the Strand Theatre during April 1861. From this version all the modern “Aladdins” are descended.

In my opening lines in the BLMH version I say , as Slave of The Lamp”- Aladdin Widow Twankey’s Son, A Laundry Boy, He’s such a scamp!” Nice to know I’m harking back to the VERY original!


In this production of 1861 the part of TWANKAY was created by Mr James Rogers, who had recently finished playing “Ugly Sister” Clorinda for Byron in his “Cinderella”. The part, as we know actually went back to that early production in 1788, and the name goes back to 1861. Apart from characters named in “Robinson Crusoe”, Aladdin’s mother has the oldest pedigree in the history of pantomime. Twankay was a type of tea- so the name was comic from the start, and would be the same as calling her “Widow Typhoo” or “Widow PG Tips” in later times!


It can get chilly as Winter Draws on!!

So there we have it, a “Tale As Old As Time” and we are retelling it every day here in Silvertown but with a Music Hall tilt to it.  We have a Girl as a Boy, and We have a Gent as a Lady- Two in fact, as I’ve taken on the role of Slave Of The Lamp in a Principal Boy meets Dame sort of fashion! We are very trad. The Baddie- Abanazar, played by David Phipps-Davis ALWAYS enters from Stage Left (The “Bad” side) and Ben Goffe as Genie Of The Ring ALWAYS enters from Stage Right- The “Good Side”.

Aren’t you glad you read this blog for the Tit Bits?

Tomorrow we have a Lunch Time Show, and possibly as Special Guest…. More on that in the next Blog, along with more “Aladdin” facts!


Feb 5th: Ben Joins the Order!


Ben Goffe, pictured here with his proud Dad Rusty, and (Lto R) John Styles, Paul James, Vincent Hayes and Andrew Robley.

The picture above commemorates the creation of a brand new member of The GOWR (The Grand Order Of Water Rats)on Sunday. Brick Lane’s Genie, Ben created a new “Baby” rat in this theatrical charitable order at the Lodge in Central London.

Ben now has to wear his rat emblem on his left lapel and joins his fellow Water Rats each month for their meeting. Here’s his badge and scroll.

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The week has flown by. Our very special visitor on Saturday night was Peter Sandeman, and his wife Gail. They brought a party along to The Music Hall. For very many years Peter ran the Famous City Varieties Music Hall in Leeds, and before that was at my home town theatre- The Grand, Swansea. We worked out Peter has known me for Fifty Years!


Peter Sandeman & Guests below, joined by Joanne Hayes.


Saturday was a packed to the rafters Dinner show, lots of fun and the end of a busy week. The show has now settled. Tonight we were joined by Matt Pallant on keyboards, he will be taking over the baton several times this season as Tom or Martin complete long standing engagements around the Country.


The Finale- Eleven on stage, and a round dozen when joined by Stage Manager Rhys!

as Slave of The Ring my magical powers extended to picking on a Gentleman in the Audience (Something I may have done once or twice in Pantomime over the past forty plus years!) and It was a fitting tribute to the success of the Welsh Rugby Team today when I picked a fellow Welshman, who it turned out was our Princess Shelby’s Uncle! Not Uncle Abanazar, but Uncle Mike! Da Iown!

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From Belly Dancing To Ballet Dancing!

The Weekend saw a Double Dame Birthday- Marc Seymour (Recently finished playing Mrs Starkey in Peter Pan at Ilford) and Andrew Ryan (Currently on tour with the thriller “Mindgames” and recently Betty Blumenthal in “Beauty & The Beast” in Nottingham) celebrated Birthdays. Here are three Dames enjoying a glass or two yesterday!


Next week we have Two Lunchtime and Two Tea Time shows, followed by a Dinner show, so another busy week ahead.


Joanne Hayes has been taking some great pictures of the show- I’ll be adding these during the next week. Here is one quirky picture I really like- It is taken through a bevelled mirror in the dressing room- it has an oil painting feel to it- or maybe its just that I feel as old as an oil painting!


Mirror Mirror on The Wall……!

During the show Jordan and Nathan don some snazzy Dungarees- so here are the Super Mario Bros look alikes from Act Two!


February 1st The Panto Continues!


Here we are- off on the Road To Morocco in search of Abanazar! From the left Ben as Genie, Lucy as Aladdin, Vincent as Wishy, Andrew as Twankey and me as the Slave Of The Ring.

This week we’ve done tea matinees and a lunch matinee to date, each show packed to the rafters with jolly audiences. It really is a great atmosphere- tables and chairs laid out , the auditorium lit and looking festive- and it is now officially February. A few of the long running major pantomimes have just finished- Bradford, Newcastle, Birmingham, York, and we will carry on the traditions into March and then- it’ll be time for Easter Pantomimes once again!


Lucy, Nigel & Shelby

We are carrying on the noble tradition of a female Principal Boy here at Brick Lane. Lucy has played this role a few times over the past few years, and does so after finishing her own pantomime where she plays Principal Girl. The role played by a lady isn’t seen very much these days- it has come and gone as fashion dictates. When I was young I watched male pop stars play Principal Boy in Panto- a fashion set by Cliff Richard when he was at The London Palladium.


Then I started to appear in Pantomimes myself, and the tide turned in favour of the ladies- heralded by Cilla Black appearing at The London Palladium.

I did “Cinderella” with many female Princes- Jan Hunt, Janet Dibley, Caroline Dennis, and female Dandinis- including Fern Britton and Anneka Rice. It is refereshing to see Lucy strut her stuff here in Brick Lane and keep up the tradition that goes way back to the mid eighteen hundreds!

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I was heading for the Docklands Railway yesterday, and with my hood up against the icy blasts, I felt secure enough NOT to be recognised (I never am!) to get into the lift with some of our audience. “Oh, I laughed so much my jaw aches”.. I smiled inside my hood … “Beautiful Costumes!”.. I smiled more.. “Lovely songs”.. I grinned.. Then they began an impromptu version of “we’re In The Money” with movement and set the lift alarm off!

I stopped grinning! Thankfully we slowly creaked up to the platform and I got my train!

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That’s a cheeky shot!


Ben doesn’t appear until nearly the end of Act One- hence his casual attire!

Today we have a lunchtime show, which means we go up half an hour later than Tea matinees- the show is at 2.30pm. The coaches will have arrived and the audience will be tucking into the three course meal as I arrive, and then off we go.

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Here are a few pictures from my V&A visit last Sunday to see Danny La Rue’s costume installed next to Peter & I in the theatre section. The display looks lovely- I’ll be returned to see an exhibition on the Ocean Liners later this month. The Opera exhibition finishes shortly.


Danny’s “Aladdin” costume (formerly “Mother Goose” at Plymouth) next to Peter Robbins Ballgown and my Ballgown, from “Cinderella”.


I’m off to get ready for the lunchtime show. If you fancy seeing a fun and furry panto this Easter, here’s a version of “Alice In Wonderland” with the gorgeous Ashleigh & Sully starring!



Allo Allo- It’s Panto!


Our first Evening show of the run, joined by the lovely Vicki Michelle, Her Husband Graham Fowler and two of her three siblings!

We’ve got through week one with Two Afternoon Tea shows, and tonight’s Evening Show with Dinner, which starts at 9pm, coming down at around Eleven Thirty. The show has had a few tweaks here and there- no major cuts, only small trims. I’ve slightly altered my “Business” as Slave Of The Ring- it’s a subtle change, but it works better and I’m happy with it.

SONY DSC  SONY DSCBackstage is still pretty fast and furious- Andrew changing frequently and for short periods as Widow Twankey, With Sam, Jordan and Nathan changing almost as many times. We might need traffic lights installed at this rate!. Zara and Lucy co-ordinate this maelstrom of costumic activity, and the audiences reactions are the reward as each new costume makes an appearance.

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Lucy As Principal Boy

Tonight (Friday’s) show had an extra zing that an evening performance brings, and the audience were “up for it” all the way. They have fun and we have fun I guess, that’s the best way to put it! From the Dinner, the first half, the topping up of wine in the Interval and the singalong finale, it all powered along until half eleven.


Andrew Ryan, Graham Fowler, Nigel, Vicki, Andrew & Vincent

Popped front of house at the end to join Vicki and Graham (Vicki had called around in the Interval as well) and joined up with Andrew Ryanfor a Dame Fest at the bar! Andrew (Ryan) had just returned from the Palace Westcliff- he’s in “Mindgames” by Anthony Horowitz this week, part of his tour.

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Tomorrow is also an evening show- we arrived around 8pm for the curtain to rise in Peking at 9pm. The guests are already dining by the time we arrive, and once the tables are clear, off we go. It was lovely to see Vicki tonight- she’s currently in Channel 5’s “Costa Del Celebrity” alongside Anne Diamond, Ainsley Harriott, Christine Hamilton and Nick Owen. – Fond memories of working with Nick in “The Krankies” TV series on the racetrack at Carlisle!

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Celebrities In Spain!

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Vicki has just finished Panto at Northwich- As Slave of The Lamp- I have a Sister Slave in tonight! For more info look at

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Vicki in Panto this season

For tonight, it’s midnight and the Magic Lamp can go back in the cave until 9pm tomorrow!