Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Panto Roadshow- Halfway!

The Pantomime Roadshow- Halfway!

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Sitting here in Blackpool on a blustery night, with the clocks about to go back for Winter, it struck me that we are half way through the tour!
Welcome to this season’s Roadshow team- Andrew Ryan, Alan Magor and myself. For our two weeks in London Andrew and I were joined by Will Jeffs, and for our week in Wolverhampton to come we will once again be working alongside Nathan Daniel.

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Alan Magor & Andrew Ryan
We started in September with two weeks of shows for the Kenneth More Theatre, promoting their pantomime “Dick Whittington” around The London Borough of Redbridge and into Newham, Waltham Forest and East London schools. Big thanks to Steven Day and Sally Woodfield at the KMT for nearly twenty shows in the locale!

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We left London for Southampton and played ten schools – nearly three thousand children saw the show- for the Mayflower Theatre. We even managed to catch the tail end of the Mayflower Panto Press Launch during the week, and catch up with Brian Conley,Kathryn Rooney, Martin Ramsdin and David Robbins, and Gok Wan and his very lovely dog, Dolly!

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Managed a chat with Michael Harrison before the Press Launch finished, with Robin Hancox overseeing the events, and to share a piece of Kathryn’s Birthday Cake before they headed back to London.

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Michael & Kathryn at the Press Launch

The fates smiled on starving actors that week- we strolled up to a restaurant in the town and ordered our meals. “Do we pay now or at the end?” the answer was “No. You don’t pay anything at all”. “Sorry?” “Nothing at all- its all free. We are not fully open and in training, so its our chance to hone our skills. Enjoy!” We did! Thank you kind restaurant!
Our second year here at Sunny Southampton-where both Andrew & I have enjoyed panto seasons in this huge theatre- and big thanks to Sara Scott and Mike Evans for a fantastic week once again!
During that week we gazed in awe as the World’s largest passenger liner sailed into the dock and towered over Ikea! In fact it towered over Southampton with its seventeen stories of passenger accommodation. We’d love to take the Panto Roadshow on the High Seas on that ship!

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Ships passed in the night too, as John Evans arrived at Southampton and sailed away, and we didn’t get the chance to have a cuppa as we were doing a show. I’ve had the great joy of working alongside John in two pantos at Venue Cymru- “Aladdin” and last year in “Sleeping Beauty”. We didn’t see John, but we did get to talk about him a lot as we headed up to Venue Cymru in Llandudno to promote this seasons “Cinderella” when John is joined by Jimmy Osmond this year!

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We took the scenic route to North Wales over the weekend, as we don’t play Saturdays or Sundays.
A great day visiting Betwys y Coed, Swallow falls and amazing aquaducts, all in the shadow of Snowdon.

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A week of ten shows on behalf of Venue Cymru in the area, and one very lovely show that took place in Theatr Colwyn. We were joined by students of Ysgol Llandrillo for a jolly, loud and very lovely show that we’ll remember for a long time. Paul Sampson, photographer in residence for Venue Cymru joined us there, and took some excellent photographs of the event. Here’s the link from the site http://www.documentconwy.co.uk

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The Palladium Llandudno
At Theatr Colwyn we were looked after by Aidi Jones, and it was a good to catch up with him- it felt like Panto all over again! A really lovely week in which we managed to sight see in between shows- the odd waterfall here, the odd Castle there, and even squeezed in a flying visit to the Isle Of Anglesey and the station with the very long name- you know the one! We had a bowl of soup in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwryndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

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I really enjoyed revisiting my old haunts- staying at the glorious “Can Y Bae” of course, with Michael, Dave and Rolo the Airdale, andhaving Dinner at the Empire, A Roast at The Albert and, of course, a trip up the Orme in a tram- into the clutches of Hurricane Gonzales, and barely able to stand up- great fun!

Passed through Rhyl en route to one of the schools we were visiting. I once did a very long Summer Season there at the Gaiety Theatre on the promenade- about 28 weeks I think- Music Hall, Variety, A Summer pantomime of “Snow White” and many other shows. The theatre has now gone, and on the site is now a public loo- but it still retains the circular shape of the Gaiety Theatre- I had a quick snap taken standing where I think the foyer was back in ’77!

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Even managed to find some programmes from The Arcadia Theatre in an antiques shop- The Arcadia was on the site now occupied by Venue Cymru, and pay another visit to the Palladium Theatre, now a beautifully restored Wetherspoons in the town centre. The Queen Of Resorts looked beautiful even in a gale.

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The Theatre has some great posters and programmes on display- take a look in the coffee bar when you are passing, then go upstairs for a gallery of pictures by Paul Sampson. I’m up there in my opening costume from last year looking very Majestic!

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Huge thanks to Sarah Ecot, Karin Bruns, Richard Jones, Aidi Jones and all at VC for a fantastic week of Roadshowing-Diolch yn Fawr!

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While in the area we got the chance to visit the stunning Portmerion Village, as beautiful as ever. Every time you turn a corner of this 1920’s creation it is like looking at a panto set!

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The yellow building below is where Noel Coward wrote “Blithe Spirit” in a matter of days during the war!

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From Llandudno to Blackpool to rest up and prepare for the journey up to Glasgow- a day of trams, fish and chips and the Blackpool “Hallucinations” before next week’s shows for the SECC- another “Cinderella” with John Barrowman and the fabulous Krankies!

WARD ALLAN

Here at IBY we received the sad news that Ward Allan, Magician, Balloon Entertainer and first and Foremost, ventriloquist has died.

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I had the pleasure of doing over six pantomimes with Ward and his mischievous pal, Roger The Dog. Ward appeared in Paul Elliott pantomimes from the early 1980’s and continued to entertain children for Qdos. My first pantomime with Ward was the 1985 Bournemouth Pavilion “Cinderella” and the following years at Richmond, Aberdeen and Hull New Theatre.

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Ward and Roger played Brokers Men or Baron and his Dog and performed two speciality acts in each show. No matter who topped the bill, Ward was essential in the panto as he appealed directly and to great acclaim to young children. Roger was adored by children- he was naughty, he was rebellious and above all he was supremely silly!

Ward remained stoic to his naughty behaviour and often appalled at his tricks. The routine he did with a balloon was masterful. In the world of speshes, it ranked with Bob Carolgees performing “Old Shep”, and Cuddles the Monkey discovering he has a tail!

Roger was entrusted with an inflated balloon by Ward. All he had to do was hold it in his mouth. in fact, as Ward was distracted Roger struggled to keep hold, levitated and repeated his attempt at flight until the audience was exhausted – It was a man raising his arm- that is all, but if that arm belonged to a top notch expert in comedy timing, it became the highlight of the show.

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Ward learned his trade in working men’s clubs and in Summer seasons up and down the country. seasons with Ken Dodd and top comics of the day led to television appearances- from “It’s Cliff and Friends” in 1975, through Search For A Star in 1979, Krankies Klub in 1982 to BBC’s The Roger the Dog Show in the early ’80’s Ward became a leading name in the ventriloquist circuit.

I did additional pantomimes with him at Sheffield Lyceum and at Darlington in 2000 among others, and I can remember getting on a train at Wimbledon or Richmond and the entire carriage of panto children with shouting ” Superdog- wheeeee!” And Ward’s other catchphrase ” What has he got? he’s got a balloon!” children adored Ward and Roger.

Ward lived in his native County Durham in Littletown, and had made his professional debut at the City Varieties in Leeds at the age of 16. He remained a constant working professional entertainer for forty seven years.

Ward worked in panto for Paul Elliott, for Jon Conway and Nick Thomas, and when Michael Harrison began his early producing career in Newcastle, it was Ward Allan who headlined his first show. A very proud family man, he was always delighted to introduce us all to his family – Mary his wife and his children Helen, Sue and David. It was Mary who created and hand crafted Roger. Every dressing room Ward occupied had a seat for Roger- I would pass the door on the way to the stage and see him sitting there on his own. Until he talked! ward delighted in staying out of sight to catch you unawares with his “Ventickleyourbits”!

In recent times Ward lectured and held workshops on ventriloquism, and held circus workshops in Blackpool- you were invited to bring along a sock, or a glove and see how, under his guidance, it could come alive – just like Roger did every show.

A pleasure and a joy to work with you Ward- our sincere condolences to his Family and his many friends in the world of variety and pantomime.