Monthly Archives: September 2017

Marie Lloyd in “Dick Whittington”

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Marie lloyd & Fred Griffiths 1898

MARIE LLOYD & THE CROWN THEATRE PECKHAM

Today I acquired a programme from 1898. It is “Dick Whittington” and starring in the title role was “The Queen Of The Music Halls”- Marie Lloyd.

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It is a humbling feeling to handle a document so fragile it is falling apart in my hands, knowing that the person who first held this almost 120 years ago actually saw this pantomime, and thought it so memorable that they kept the programme. They stored it away through two world wars, through the decline of Music Hall and Variety, the emergence of Radio and Television, and somehow, even in its fragile state, it still evokes feelings of awe!

London, Peckham, Crown Theatre - showing vintage horses and carts

Marie Lloyd was a huge star- the biggest and highest paid “Queen Of Comedy”. Born in 1870 she was in her prime, and had appeared at The Drury Lane Pantomimes among others alongside Dan Leno.

She lived in fashionable St John’s Wood in London,at her home, “Granville Lodge”, and could perform in any central London pantomime she wished, and yet here she in a theatre that had just been built away from the bright lights.

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Centre: John Wood, Matilda Wood & Marie Lloyd (Seated) Back Row: Daisy Wood, Rosie lloyd, Johnny Lloyd Grace & Alice Lloyd. Front Row: Anne, Maud and Sydney.

The reason was family, and the belief in Marie’s mind that Charity begins at home.

The Wood family as they were, were a very large theatrical clan. There were nine children, and Marie’s siblings appeared in theatres following in her wake.

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In this pantomime programme you can see that Marie’s sister Daisy Wood played opposite her as Alice Fitzwarren. Daisy was engaged to be married to the new Theatre Director, Donald Munro. Marie’s appearance in Pantomime there would be a huge boost to the success of the theatre, and the finances of her future Brother-In-Law.

Daisy was the only one of the Wood theatrical clan to retain the family name- the others changed their names to the Lloyd brand name.

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The Stage commented:

“The choice of Miss Marie Lloyd was a good one that this clever lady has already justified. She partakes in all the fun with zest, sings with her well known vigour, and throughout exercises the charms of Marie Lloyd over the audience.

Miss Daisy Wood- a bright and vivacious dancer, makes so dainty an Alice that Dick’s affection is easily understood”

 Daisy Wood had planned to retire after her marriage, as fashionable and well to do ladies of the theatre often did upon meeting an Earl or a Duke. Donald, who also ran The Pavilion Whitechape, had money. Marie grumbled that o Daisy began to affect airs once she became “Mrs Munro”. They were married the following year. Daisy did retire, but returned to the theatre and became a big star in the USA from 1908 onwards.

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This was to be the first of Three Pantomimes Marie appeared in at The Crown,- in her career she appeared in a total of eight- and her name on the bill brought in her many fans.

“Encore” reported:

Her true inwardness of genius was never more demonstrated than in this production, and I was not surprised at being told that patrons from far away Highgate, now that the all night trams are in full swing, come down to see the show”

 Miss Lloyd also wore some very short tunics- dangerously short, that did not hurt the publicity. The programme shows us that a new song “Holloa!” was specially written by popular writers George Rollit and George Le Brun.

 Typically, it was a naughty but nice song, about folk up to shenanigans in parlours and hot houses! One verse runs:

A lot of things we perpetrate are very nice, no doubt,

Until we’re, by some blunder, unexpectedly found out-

For instance, take the fellow who at Ball or Garden Fete

Retired to the conservatory to have a tete a tete with Kate..

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Marie’s latest hit song she loaned to Sister Daisy, “Everything in the garden’s lovely”, although she did feel it was a little too gentile for her own use!

Playing Old Tom, Dick Whittington’s cat was Fred Griffiths. He and his brother Joseph had played Cow in  the Drury Lane “Jack and The Beanstalk” with Dan Leno and Herbert Campbell. The Dame- called Mistress Pansop (too early for Sarah The Cook to have become the norm) was played by Tom Fancourt.

This pantomime featured an aerial ballet and a speciality from The Royal Welsh Glee Singers! It featured a Harlequinade, even though these were going out of fashion. The tradition of following the pantomime with the comic skits and dances were dropped by Augustus Harris at Drury Lane almost ten years previously.

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Marie’s eight pantomimes were one each at Hoxton and Liverpool, three each at Drury Lane and three at The Crown Peckham.

The following year 1899 Marie Lloyd  returned to The Crown Theatre but this time without Daisy. Her Sister Alice played Cinderella, with Marie starring as Prince Heliotrope. She made an impressive entrance on horseback, in full riding costume. During the Pantomime she wore “nine different costumes, each one more costly and becoming as the last” (The” Stage”)

 After extensive touring abroad, Marie returned to The Crown Theatre in 1902 for what was to be her last Pantomime- “Aladdin”. This time it was the turn of her Sister Rosie Lloyd to join her. She was twenty two. The Pantomime ran at Peckham until the end of February, and then played a week at Stratford East London in March 1903.

So, having marvelled at this fragile piece of history- I’ll frame the centre pages to preserve them better- I realised that History has come even closer. I’m writing this article in Ilford, East London. It was at the Ilford Hippodrome in 1944 that Rosie was taken ill during a performance of “Cinderella”,the third performance of the day, and was taken to hospital where she died. She was aged Sixty-Five.

Her  daughter took over her role for the last performances.

This from my Brother Vivyan’s website on Theatres:

Extract from “Entertaining Ilford”- Page 60

(available online at www.overthefootlightd.com)

(1943) The year ended with  a two week run of  Dick Whittington with the well known comedian Hal Monty making his first ever appearance in pantomime, playing Idle Jack.

1944 was to be the last full year in the history of the Hippodrome.  It started with the second pantomime:  a two week run of  Cinderella with Alice and Rosie Lloyd (sisters of the famous Marie Lloyd).  During the third performance on Saturday 15th January Rosie Lloyd complained of feeling ill, and, after the show,  was taken to Sutton and Cheam Hospital near her home.  She underwent an operation on Sunday.  For the two shows on Monday Alice Lloyd brought her own daughter to cover the shows for the rest of the week.  Rosie died on Tuesday evening

Curiously the Hippodrome staged a third pantomime the following week, this time Aladdin with Georgie Wood as Wishee Washee .  This played just one week of twice nightly, but with matinees every day, and was followed by a variety bill headed by 24 year old Betty Driver, billed as the radio and stage star (and whose career would last until 2011 and include 2,800 episodes of TV’s Coronation Street, famous for Betty’s Hotpots!)

A year later in 1945 The Ilford Hippodrome was bombed during a performance of Pantomime, and was later pulled down.

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The Crown Theatre in Peckham didn’t survive the days after Marie Lloyd was the bill topper. By 1912 it had closed, and was later used to show early silent pictures.The magnificent building, renamed The Peckham Hippodrome was demolished, and in 1935 a Gaumont Cinema was built on the site.

Site Of Crown Peckham

This cinema closed in 1961 and was demolished. A modern block of apartments taking their name from The Gaumont stands there today.

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The legendary Marie Lloyd died in 1922, aged fifty two. Thousands lined the streets for her funeral. Her songs are still sung and remembered to this day- “My Old Man”, “Oh Mr Porter”, “The Boy In The Gallery” and many more can still be recalled.

Daisy Wood retired in 1928.

All this from one fragmented theatre programme!

 

 

 

 

 

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The Wycombe Swan Press Launch

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Wednesday 13th September 2017

Ten years to the very day, I returned to High Wycombe for Press Day at the Swan Theatre! I know this because Facebook brought it to my attention with the very poignant picture below.

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Peter Robbins, Brian Conley Nigel Ellacott 2007

The last time I played Wycombe was “Cinderella”, as Ugly Sister, and here I am as Dame Trott with my mates from last year, Simon, Ashleigh, and Sully , joining my old mate of twenty years Chris Jarvis in “Jack & The Beanstalk”!

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Sadly earlier this year the much loved Pudsey died. A beautiful boy, he was joined last year at Northampton with Sully (or Sullivan, to give him his proper name) and we had a great show- you can read last year’s blog if you haven’t already!). I had the great joy of going to Crufts this March to watch Puds in his retirement lap of honour in the Big Arena, and see Sully go on to win in agility- he’s now represented the UK in the same skills in France this Summer.

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Ashleigh & Sully

It is not often I am gobsmacked as I enter a dressing room, but Wycombe Swan acheived that! I’d sent my costumes up overnight by courier. I arrived early to unpack only to walk in to the dressing room to discover this!

It may look like a lot of tights and Dame’s bits- but there it was- all unpacked, all beautifully laid out! How lovely- a huge Thank You to the fabulous folk who looked after us! Gloves next to rings, make up out, everything ready to go! We could open tomorrow!

we even have our very own personalised mugs- that’s a first for me! I went to show Ashleigh who had just arrived only to discover Sully had his own dog bowl from the theatre! Here he is looking very delighted!

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Adrian LeSurf from Qdos and Mike Green from The Swan looked after us all during the day- The show is produced by Jonathan Kiley. We had photographs and press interviews, along with a live stream from the launch, and a lot of fun along the way!

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Great to see Simon and Ashleigh and with Penny Butler again, and to catch up with Chris, and to find a few minutes to explore the building that has so many memories from a decade ago.

CBeebie’s Chris Jarvis & Blue’s Simon Webbe

we were told that we’d be playing a game today to camera- Bean Boozled. Sounded fine until all was revealed. In pairs we spin a wheel to reveal a choice of magic beans- Jelly Beans. Both the same colour. One nice, one not nice. The winner was the one who didn’t end of spitting out the offending bean. Perfect for a Wednesday up Wycombe.

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Choices could be “Lime or Grass Cuttings”, or Apricot of Tinned Dog Food”, or “Apple or Smelly Socks”. Smelly socks was the worst. Believe me! Ashleigh won, with Dame Trott second! Sorry Guys, it was a ladies winning combo! Here’s Chris and I in our episode of Beanboozled!

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We had a great day, were all looked after just magnificently, and did a fair amount of press before heading back home. Looking forward to a second year with Simon and Ashleigh, and to my first with Chris, and to meeting the rest of the “Jack & The Beanstalk” gang in rehearsals which start on November 27th. Before that I’m off with Andrew Ryan and Grant Alvarez once again with the Autumn tour of The Pantomime Roadshow- visiting East London, Redbridge, Newham, Weymouth, Basingstoke and Llandudno.

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Oh and the small matter of completing the costumes for this year’s Kenneth More Theatre’s “Peter Pan”- fittings throughout October! I’ve designed some pretty fun costumes for resident Dame Marc Seymour once again!

Until November, Goodbye Wycombe- and Thanks to Adrian & Mike and all the staff for a great welcome!

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Some Facebook videos from the launch

Beanboozle Challenge – Ashleigh and Simon

Ashleigh and Sully

Simon practicing his climbing

Nigel and Chris having a natter

The Nottingham Press Launch

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Wednesday 13th September 2017

Panto Press day today in Nottingham for the Qdos “Beauty & The Beast” launch. The Group bookers invited to attend a reception at the Theatre Royal with producer Jonathan Kiley unveiling the most recent addition to the repertoire, welcomed by Jonathan Saville.

Beauty and The Beast has not been done as a pantomime that often, and with the recent interest in the Disney Live Action film, and popularity of the earlier cartoon, this “Tale as Old As Time”- well, 350 years or so, is getting a very welcome airing at Nottingham.

Also getting an airing today were Sherrie Hewson’s Knickers!

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Not so much a Panto Unveiling but a Panty unveiling! 

Miss Hewson felt the need to share her vibrant knickers with the group bookers much to the amusement of all and sundry, including Jonathan Kiley (left) and the cast! It’s obviously a Benidorm friendly greeting I imagine!

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Sherrie stars as Mrs Potty the Housekeeper, alongside Ben Richards- Ben has made appearances in many TV productions from The Bill to Footballers Wives and Hollyoaks, with West End appearances including “Priscilla” and “The Bodyguard”.

Sherrie needs no introduction- I’ve had the fun of being in two recent pantomimes with her, and this year her Grand Dame is Andrew Ryan, who also directs!

From Loose Women, a reboot of “Are You Being Served” and of course over ten years of “Benidorm”, Sherrie has appeared in almost every “soap” from “Corrie” through to “Emmerdale”, to”Crossroads” and back again!

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Ben Nickless & Andrew Ryan

Both Andrew and Ben are firm favourites at The Theatre Royal. Andrew frequently appears in the Summer Rep seasons for the Theatre Royal’s “Thriller Seasons”, and this will be his fourth panto there. It is also Ben’s Fourth. Both Andrew and Ben worked together with Lesley Joseph and Sam Attwater in “Snow White” at the Theatre Royal three years ago.

Last year Ben was in Plymouth Theatre Royal with Lesley Joseph, and Andrew was at The Hippodrome Birmingham with John Barrowman and The Krankies.

This year will be Andrew’s Thirty-First Pantomime Season, and his Twenty-Seventh as Dame!

The Launch at Newstead Abbey and The Theatre Royal, Nottingham

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The Press day involved the cast doing interviews for Notts TV and ITV, and interviews with BBc Radio and the newspapers. A TV trailer was filmed at Newstead Abbey standing in for the Beast’s Castle, and a trailer for the very popular “Relaxed Performances” that will be held at the Theatre on Wednesday 10th January 2018.

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Facebook Launch Video

AUDREY MAYE

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Audrey Maye, held in the highest esteem by all who were lucky enough to work with her, and her late husband Len Howe, passed away today.

She and Len played pantomimes and Summer Seasons together both in this country and in the 1950’s they played Australia and New Zealand amongst other long seasons.She and Len married in 1949.

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Their act was a joyful mixture of patter, singing, mime, and dance, with Len’s “drunk Act” always in great demand.

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Observing a professional Stage Drunk was in Audrey’s blood!  Her Mother, the actress May Warden appeared in the 1963 classic short  “Dinner For One” with Freddie Frinton. It is still, to this day shown every New Year’s Eve throughout Germany, where it is revered as a cult classic comedy.Audrey appeared in a documentary film, alongside Len discussing “Dinner For One” with Freddie Frinton’s widow, Nora in 2003.

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Audrey performed “Dinner For One” opposite Freddie Frinton before her Mother. Presented by Robert Luff in 1954/55 at The Jersey Opera House for Edward Kent’s “Starlight Rendevous”.

Freddie wanted Audrey to tour with him in this Sketch, but her double act with Len and family commitments meant she was unable to join him. She suggested her Mother, who appeared in the sketch at Blackpool Opera House and on tour before it was filmed.

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Audrey’s Father was the Actor and Director Sylvester Stuart, and She and Len created a theatrical dynasty that continues in their sons and grand-daughter in plays, musicals and in Pantomime.

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In 1973 Audrey was made Queen Ratling in the Grand Order Of Lady Ratlings, and became a Dame of that order. She and Len received the Lifetime Achievement award from the British Music Hall Society.

Len Howe passed away in October 2013.

Audrey helped to run “Roswyn House”, owned by the Grand Order Of Lady Ratlings. Sharon Maxim wrote to tell us:

So many people worked with Audrey and she was loved by all who knew her. Such a generosity of spirit and wonderful sense of humour. We in the Lady Ratlings honoured her with our highest award, a Dameship, but her pride and joy was the house given to the Ratlings by Sir Billy Butlin in 1965 which Audrey helped to run for over 50 years, such was her dedication. Those of us that worked alongside her at Roswyn can’t even begin to imagine the place without her, Thank you for this lovely tribute to her, her parents, Len and all the Howe boys and family. The Roswyn Gals at http://www.roswynhouse.co.uk

Here is a message from the website of roswyn house:

We were all shocked and saddened on 3rd Sept to hear the news that our wonderful
Dame PQ Audrey Maye had finally passed away after a long illness.
She was ‘ROSWYN’ and she loved this house and the fact that it had been so generously given to the Ratlings back in 1965 by Sir Billy Butlin. She fought hard over the years to help keep it going and would proudly show any new members round and let them know that:
‘It was a safe haven for any Ratling to live in if they ever needed to’
She had been a member of the GOLR for over 60 years and had appeared in many of the Ratlings’ cabarets, and in 2009 received the highest honour given by the members of the GOLR, she became a Dame of our Order – it was so very well deserved and she loved being ‘our Dame’.
Back in 2015, Audrey said that Roswyn was the Jewel in the Crown of the GOLR, and she was right, but we say that our Audrey is it’s heart and the heart of the GOLR, and she always will be.
She was the most loving, kind and truthful human being with an incredible generosity of spirit,
a wonderful sense of humour and a zest for life.
She will be missed more than words can say, but she will ALWAYS be remembered in the
Lady Ratings and especially at Roswyn.
In 2018, we intend to hold a special event at Roswyn in her memory, a day full
of love and laughter which sums up Audrey completely.
God Bless our Aud, forever in our hearts. Love From Your Roswyn Gals xxxx

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Paul Holman wrote to IBY today with these memories:

Just to say dear Audrey passed away this afternoon.

So many pantomimes. One of the first was with Bunny Baron at Theatre Royal Norwich in Mrs Russell’s ( I think) Red Riding Hood.
Then directed many for Bunny Baron and her and husband Len Howe were ugly sisters in the first pantomime at Fulcrum Slough starring Ian Lavender as Buttons.
Audrey also directed several pantomimes at Lewisham. I saw her play dame at Hastings followed by several seasons at Weston.
Audrey directed and appeared in pantomimes for PHA (Paul Holman Associates) including Jack & The Beanstalk at Hereford , as funny fairy and The witch in Wizard of Oz at Sutton.

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Audrey, Len and Simon at Lowestoft “Aladdin” courtesy of the Lowestoft Journal.
Her husband Len who died a few years ago was a celebrated panto dame and comedian. With him she performed a double act which played in India and Australia and all over this country. Topping in Isummer shows, Lowestoft Llandudno Scarborough Felixstowe and Plymouth Folkestone and Bridlington

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Simon Howe with Brother Michael in “Peter Pan”

Her three sons all played in pantomime Michael, David and Simon who is dame for us.
Her grand daughter Mollie played fairy for PHA last Christmas in Lowestoft one of Audrey’s favourite towns.