- All the chapters from "One Little Maid" can now be heard ,along with photos and drawings from the original publication at the following YOU-TUBE Links:





Thursday 19th July 2012 

Dear friends

-following a lot of planning and long discussion with Paul Dunford-the administrator of the Hinge and Bracket site -http://www.hingeandbracket-official.co.uk I will be recording the "autobiography" of dame Hilda Bracket ("one Little Maid" as an audiobook)Published in 1980-this excellent work was sadly never recorded by it's author-due to her untimely death in 2002.

Having been a life-long fan of this artist and had the privilege of working with them at Eastbourne in 1998 -I can't begin to tell you what an honour and a pleasure it is to get the go-ahead on this project.

I had hoped to have had the project completed in the for the anniversary of Patrick Fyffe's death in May-but I've been on tour,with two shows, since pantomime- firstly-"A Bedfull of Foreigners" and latterly- "Wildboyz"(with Alex Reid)-and only finished in mid June.

The Demos of the recording took just over two weeks to get done-and have proved invaluable in showing us how we can fit it onto cd and the myriad of sub -characters, within the book.

I hope all the fans of H&B will all understand that it is a "tribute" first and foremost-not an attempt to be a "sound-alike". However-this is such a unique project and it can't be often that a novel is read-"in character" in this way.

The only similar project I have come across is when Maureen Lipman created her wonderful show-"re-Joyce" a few years ago-based on the life and work of dear Joyce Grenfell. As she herself said-"let's pretend" !

What I hope to do-over the next month is share with you the process of recording the autobiography ,the technicalities of what is essentially a radio performance and my observations and memories of  this wonderful duo, having worked with them on two very happy occasions.

Feel free to ask me any questions over the next month, as the recording progresses.

This is going to be a busy month-but I hope I do justice to this long over-due project.

The recording is due for release on 1st September 2012.

Wish me luck-I can't wait to get started on the final version.

Loads of love



Friday 20th July 2012

 Thank-you for all your kind comments and words of encouragement-following our announcement yesterday. I had no idea there would be so much interest!

I mentioned to a few friends yesterday that it felt a bit daunting to have the cd cover designed already-before I've done the final recording -but that's only because I'm anxious to get it right and being a perfectionist is never easy.

I've decided to spend the next week getting my copy of the book and all the music bits and pieces sorted before I start the main recording at the beginning of August.

The first set of demos were all done at various times over the last month-and it tends to show! For instance- Chapter 5- "For King and Country" sounds as though I had  bus to catch-and Chapter 4-"Escapes and Escapades" is understandably slower-because of all the various" continental characters" that crop up-each of which need characterisation.

That leads me on neatly to Patrick's use of characters and his ability to portray characters within the character of Hilda. One only has to listen to the Radio monologues- "Between Me and You"-to appreciate his unique characterisations.

In his show-"By Kind Permission" and indeed some of the later H&B stage shows-he incorporated the likes of Mrs Stoner and "Madame"-performing character monologues. This was quite extraordinary-to portray one character who in turn is portraying another. It's also daunting from my point of view as an actor-to be able to differentiate all the characters within "One Little Maid"!

Fortunately- we've so much of Patrick's work available to draw upon-and a lot of the characters are given "voices" on the various records, radio shows and concert recordings.

Looking at the book again last night and the first set of demos --the only substantial cut I have made, for recording purposes, is the lengthy description of Bracket towers in Chapter 1-("A Pram with a view") Some of this relates to illustrations in the book, which would be impossible to recreate vocally-and a lot of the rest, although very evocative on the page, holds up the story.

Interestingly-Joyce Grenfell used to employ such detail in her books-and this is by no means a criticism-merely a producer's point of view when it comes to adapting work for radio/theatre etc.

I've kept the main points about the Bracket Towers description-but it's far more important to preserve the descriptions of the incidents and the characters (EG Pepper the Gardener, Cork the Butler etc.

You'll be pleased to know that that is the only cut I have made-the rest of the book is recorded complete.

When looking at the layout of the cd's -the first two chapters explore Hilda's childhood, school days ,finishing school-and everything  up until she leaves to start her training in Italy. This makes the first cd fairly self contained. Similarly-chapters 3 and 4 are all about Italy and fit neatly onto cd two. Chapters 5&6 explore Hilda's war work and the Rosa Charles opera company-and again seem to lend themselves to being on one cd.

Chapter 7 is all about life at Stackton Tressel-and rounds the whole story of nicely. This does however mean that the fourth cd only has one chapter and facilitates the use of bonus tracks.

At this stage-it's my intention to compile an abridged version of the sound desk recording of "Cinderella" from Eastbourne ,when I played opposite Hilda as wicked sister  for four performances.(About 15-20 minutes)then maybe an abridged version of a couple of the "Between Me and you" monologues-and then most importantly-a couple of songs. I have piano tracks for "Only a Glass ofChampagne" and "If only he'd looked my way"-but if anyone has any other ideas they'd  like me to consider……. !

It's also worth noting that the book has a preface and an acknowledgment chapter-that may be worth including at the end of chapter 7.

I  feel -that the opening of the whole recording needs to begin with Hilda's casting her mind back ,when she's listening to a tanoy announcement-"Overture and Beginners" -as it does at the start of chapter one.

(I won't tell you at this stage-which "character" will be doing the background tanoy announcement-but I'm sure you'll recognise them instantly!)

Well-that's enough ramblings for today!

Off to the gym with the ipod-to listen to-guess what ? (If only the gym instructors knew I was working out to "Dear Ladies" and " Sailor who are you dreaming of tonight"!!)

Have a good weekend-more news soon.



Monday 23rd July 2012

-Had an excellent meeting on Saturday with my dear friend Jerome Lloyd to clarify the Italian/French/German pronunciations that feature prominently in Chapters 3&4 (The Bonavoce Years and Escapes and Escapades)Having trained in Italy himself-Jerome was my first port of  call for some expert language tuition !

I don't know how fluent Patrick was in languages -but in Hilda's own words-my knowledge of Italian "is little more than Asti - Spumante!"

When I was working on a double act with Jerome ten years ago-we sang Voi Che Sapete ("Marriage of Figaro) and the Barcarolle from "Tales of Hoffman". I had to translate them phonetically -and employ all sorts of memory games to remember the words !

We had a long chat about the various words -"Vicenza"," Palazzo Chiericati","Mascagni"-to name a few. The basis rule with Italian is that the vowel takes preference in the pronunciation.

He also put me right on the correct pronunciation of Herr Lumbacker"(Hilda's first singing teacher)On the demo-I'd pronounced it as "Barker" -it is actually pronounced"Becker". Just goes to show how complicated this can all be !

However-I'm pleased to say -we've ironed out most of the pronunciation pitfalls.

I'm sure they'll be a few more that take me by surprise!

We also had a long chat about the music and sound effects.

I've made a point of keeping sound effects to a bare minimum-so they aren't distracting. After all-we're not doing a radio play.

I'm going to introduce each chapter with a short snatch of one of Hilda's songs-and it was on my mind to record them myself in "character". However-after along thought-I feel it would be better to use the original recordings-which will bridge the gap between reality and my reading "in character". (I don't like using the word impersonation!)

In chapter 5(For King and Country) Hilda talks about singing "Oh Peaceful England" from "Merrie England". On the demo I sang this unaccompanied.

Looking at it now-I feel it's far batter as a spoken quote. One mustn't get self indulgent with this project-and the golden rule-simplicity is best.

I'll save any singing for the bonus tracks at the end -if there is space and time.

I'm sure avid fans of the book will spot the many double entendres that crop up-by the same token-one must just play the text in pure innocence and not go for the obvious!

Further to my last blog-I am seriously thinking of using the preface and the acknowledgement chapters at the beginning and end.

I noticed today that Paul had put the introduction as a demo on the website!

I'm sure you'll all recognise Arkley Barnett-who seemed the perfect choice to make the tanoy announcement that opens the book. I've often used that voice myself onstage-and once when I was stage managing "April in Paris"-I used it as the Captain's announcement during a scene change !Arkley will be popping up later in the book to do a reading-but you'll have to wait for that ! (I'll just say-Chapter 6!!)

I was saying the other day how my introduction to Hinge and Bracket in the early 70's went hand in hand with my discovery and life long love of Gilbert and Sullivan. I was lucky enough to have a music teacher who taught us music hall and G&S-and one of the first things was "Poor wandering one"! I was fascinated by the plots and characters and getting to know H&B enhanced my knowledge of G&S. Within a few years -I knew all thirteen operas by heart-and still adore them.

In the same way-being in an amateur operatic society and being lucky enough to catch the tale end of the likes of "New Moon"," Desert Song", "Bittersweet" and all the operettas that Hilda talks about- increased  my love of those shows-and made me appreciate the detail that went into H&b's work.

If you listen to the monologue- "Showboat won't be the same" by Basil Migden (on the "Between me and you" collection) it sums up beautifully the life of an amateur operatic society-of which Patrick was a part for some time.To my mind-this was the best of those monologues because it comes from first hand experience. Coming from the West Midlands myself-it all sounds strangely familiar!

I'm spending much of the week-just tidying up the book,so I have a clean "script" to work with-and sorting the extracts of music I talked about earlier.

I'm away for a couple of days with some corporate work on Wednesday and Thursday-and then hopefully I'll be in a good position to start the final recording at the end of the week.

Have a good week . More random jottings to come !





Friday 28th July 2012

 -Thank you for all the kind words of encouragement that have come in via the website and this site.

 And-thank you Rachel and Frank-for alerting me to the Ivor Novello concert on the BBC proms(9th August Radio 3 and 11th August BBC) It's about time Novello's music had a revival-in the same way the Noel Coward music reached a new audience, following the 20th century blues concert a few years ago.

So-today's ramble is all about Novello ;

Yes-indeed- it was Hinge and Bracket who introduced me to the beautiful music of Novello. I think the first thing I heard was "Fly Home Little Heart" on "Saga of the Snow"(Enchanting world)-a really beautiful song.

Years later-I caught a production(amateur) of "King's Rhapsody"-and was bowled over by what a beautiful story and haunting music it contains.

Yes-his work is unashamedly romantic-and the plots fanciful-but that's what the public needed at the time-pure romance and escapism, following the war years.

I saw "King's Rhapsody" in about three productions, during the mid-80's and a production of "The Dancing Years"-which is probably his best known(I won't say his best musical-and they are superb in their own way)I defy anyone to watch "Dancing Years" or "King's Rhapsody" and not be in tears by the end.

There are films of "Glamorous Night"," King's Rhapsody" and "Dancing Years"-all too freely adapted. For an accurate version of "Dancing Years"-try and get hold of the "Dancing Years" video with Anthony Valentine and Celia Gregory.

 Interestingly-Hinge & Bracket performed a lot of songs from "Perchance to Dream"-probably because Patrick did a production of "Perchance to dream" ,early on in his career-when he was working for the aforementioned producer Alexander Bridge.

When we were doing "Cinderella"(1998)Patrick told me he played Mazelli(who also doubles with the vicar in Act 2) Apparently Alexander Bridges' mother ((Eileen Farrow) was playing both Ernestine and Mrs Bridport. Now-to briefly describe Miss Farrow(now sadly deceased)-there was definitely an element of Dame Hilda about her-and I'm sure having worked with her-more than a little of her personality went into shaping Patrick's characterisation !

She must have been in her fifties even then-and Patrick told me she came onstage in Act 2-as the older Mrs Bridport and Alexander Bridge yelled from the back of the auditorium-"Mother-you're supposed to look old"!

She replied-very innocently -"But I don't know how to !"

Years later in i993-I got a phone call from my agent to quickly get myself down to London to start rehearsing for Alexander Bridge's final  production of "Perchance to Dream". Sadly-it was a shadow of it's former self! It was supposed to be a major uk tour but turned into one week in Yeovil ! Half the music was cut(and it still ran at three hours!) the set was a stock panelled drawing room(in fact-I'm pretty sure-it's the one that crops up on the H&B Buxton concert)-that we subsequently used for "Time and the Conways", "Murder at the Vicarage" and even "On Golden Pond"(!) and the lovely music and orchestra was reduced to being played on a keyboard, with instrument effects-sounding not unlike a Bontempi!

The technical rehearsal on the Sunday night finished at mid-night and the dress rehearsal the next day finished at 7.10-with barely enough time to re-set everything and go up at 7.30 It was mad! Rehearsing "Highwayman love" at around 11.30PM will be forever etched on my brain.

It was jinxed as well-Jean Bayliss(the original Maria in the London " Sound of Music") was due to be in it-but she went ill. even before rehearsals began and Eileen Farrow as Mrs Bridport,went ill after the opening night.

It was indeed to be Mr Bridge's last musical-as he died in March 199 but not before he'd produced one of his last pantomimes-"Snow White" at Bognor-starring Dr Evadne Hinge as Wicked Queen! AND-after each performance of "Perchance to dream" ,Bridge announced that 1994 would see a new  production of "Murder at the Vicarage" starring Dr Hinge!(My ears certainly pricked up at that!)

 Back to Ivor Novello and "One Little Maid"-there is a slight error in Chapter 2; Hilda describes how, at her coming out ball-"the orchestra struck up again beginning with a song of Ivor Novello's from  song from "Arc de Triomphe".

Considering the events of chapter two take place before the outbreak of war and "Arc de Triomphe" wasn't performed until November 1943-the two events don't add up-which is unusual-given Patrick's eye for detail. For the purpose of the reading I've altered the line to "a song of Ivory Novella's". (I know I'm being picky-but ....)

So yes-H&B certainly kept the name of Ivory Novella in our minds-and taught us so much about him.

 Anyone who hasn't discovered the beauty of Novella's music-it's worth checking out the website of the Ivory Novello Bureau.(http://www.ivornovello.com/events.htmIt lists any new productions, supplies Novello Cd's and  some of the videos I've mentioned and gives information of any forthcoming productions.

The patron is Marilyn Hill Smith-who sang a moving rendition of "My Hero" at Patrick's memorial in 2002.

I mentioned the various extracts of music I shall be including in the recording-and I've eventually tracked down "Mimi's Farewell"from "La Boheme" that features at the end of Chapter 5. I'm trying to find a snatch of a piano version-if anyone can assist-please let me know as soon as possible.

Well-that's about it for now. I'm still working on the music and the technical effects-before I start recording on 1st August. My partner has to go into hospital on that day-overnight-so it 'll take my mind of it all-by having a full day recording the first few chapters.

Loads more to tell you-about "Murder at the Vicarage" and "Cinderella"-but that's for another day.

Thanks for sharing my Novello stories today. 

Have a good weekend




Saturday 29th July

Hi all-and especially Anne-from the H&B google group
Yes indeed-it was Peter Bridge-but he had to use the name Alexander as there was already a famous west end producer -Peter Bridge.
He gave me my first ever job in a creaky old Emlyn Williams play-"A Murder has been Arranged"-and subsequently music hall,"A Christmas Carol"and my first panto at Grays,Essex. What a character he was.
Sadly he died in 1994.
He'd even offered me his very last tour-"Write me a murder"-but I was already committed to a production of "Bent",
The company was then taken over by Bruce James,with whom I've worked on and off since then.
And the Palace theatre,Westcliff-I reckon I;ve played that theatre more times in my career than any other-it has such a lot of atmosphere.I'm surprised we haven't met or you having seen me in something I've been in .
I was last there in March this year.
Thanks for sharing your memories-I'll see if | can find a picture of the great impresario! !
All best wishes

Monday 30th July 2012 -1am !

Well-the recording process has now started.

I made a start on recording Chapter 1. This was a tricky one to do-as the demo recording was recorded via mini disc and also had a major cut-regarding the details of Bracket Towers. I've endeavoured to put some of this back-with the result that I've added eight minutes to the recording.

As a result it means we are going to be hard pushed to fit the first two chapters onto the first cd.

There are only  small snippets of music to be added at the beginning and ends of chapters-but with there only being 80 minutes available on a cd - one cannot fill it up completely-or finalising the cd becomes problematic-and I don't want to give Paul a headache when it comes to copying the cd's en masse.

It's certainly made the decision for me -that we cannot include the preface-a shame really -as there are some good lines there.

Never the less-something had to go-and if we encounter further problems -I'll have to edit that first chapter again.

For those of you with a technical mind-I'm recording the project on a condenser microphone, via quad capture and using Audacity software. This means I can edit the wave pattern afterwards. If I make a mistake during recording (which-with all the difficult pronunciations) it's easy to edit -I merely pause, leave a gap for editing and start the phrase again,

When I come to edit the recording-I can merely take out the sound wave that has the error-a little bit like cutting and pasting on a computer.

This has its advantages-in being able to do the editing myself and to be able to get the timing right on the edit. Having done a lot of voice overs-the tendency is to take out all the" breath sounds". In this case-breath and the use of pause and timing is vital to the timing of the reading-and I mustn't be too free with taking out pauses-only when they become too long.

The disadvantage of recording this way is that if you make a mistake and go back and do it at a later stage-it's difficult to match up the intonation of the previous sentence.

For this reason-I'm recording each chapter in "one take" and then going back to edit out the mistakes.

Believe me-we're only human-and even the most experienced radio and voice over actors make mistakes. Thank heavens for computers and not having to splice and edit tape.

But-at least by doing the  editing myself-I know Hilda's timing and can hear it in my mind as I do the final edits.

After I've edited each chapter-the whole track goes through an amplifying programme, a programme to remove clicks and pops, a compressor and a normalise-so that the whole track sounds at the same vocal level-and each chapter will sound the same too-with no sudden changes of volume.

I was quite happy with the reading of the first chapter-but as it's been a week since I did the demos-I may have to go back and do it again a little later on-once I've got back into the swing of things. I remember on the demos that I was far happier with Hilda's voice in the later chapters. I think the same thing may happen here-after a few trail runs.

I'm going to record the introduction and the epilogue last of all-and maybe even Chapter 4, as this is the most difficult chapter to record. But-we shall see.

At the moment-my main concern is fitting the first two chapters on that first cd. It would be a great shame to split them up and ruin the continuity.

In a way-I'm glad I started the recording today-no time like the present-and the difficult chapters of the book-start from Chapter two onwards. So-while my partner is in hospital on Wednesday and overnight-it'll give me something to concentrate on and take my mind off his operation.

We've had some marvellous chats via the Google site about Ivor Novello and a fellow producer with whom Patrick and I worked. Before the end of this recording process-I'll try and fill you all in on the fun we had doing "Murder at the Vicarage"(1994) and "Cinderella"(1998)-of which some of the sound desk recording should appear at the end of cd as a bonus track.


Just as a thought-if anyone knows of any companies who record talking books -or recording for the blind or similar-please let me know. I know I'm going to be at a bit of a loss after this project-as it's such an important one for us all. I'd like to keep in the swing of home recording -and I'm open to any projects anyone can suggest. Just drop me a line via my website.

Well-it's 1.0clcok in the morning-and bed-time beckons.

More news tomorrow as I tackle chapter 2!

Thanks for reading.





Thursday 2nd August

My Dearest Dears.

Sorry-not to have given you all an update-just been a bit stressful with my partner going into hospital overnight(he's out now-and just needs rest-so a good opportunity for me to shut myself away in the studio !)

Recorded Chapter 2 on Monday afternoon and Chapter 3 last night.

Funnily enough-both Chapters felt easier to do-having done them once before-but there is so much light and shade to get in-particularly with the "Bona Voce Years"(Chapter 3)-because of the different emotions involved.

The wonderful thing about Hilda's character-and H&B generally was that they could have you rolling in the aisles one moment-but then the sincere and tender moments were made all the more real.

One only has to listen to the later recording of "If only he'd looked my way" and "Golden days"-to hear the sincerity and genuine belief in the character Patrick was playing. George himself said how beautifully Patrick played fairy Godmother in "Cinderella".

I saw them both perform in "Sleeping Beauty" at bath theatre royal in 1995-and the first act ended with Evelyn Laye's "The Night is Young". I can only say-it was pure magic-and played with great sincerity. In the same way-when Hilda appeared on the tribute to "Evelyn Laye" at the Palladium in 1992(Of which I acquired a "private handbag recording" many years later from my dear friend in Holland)- Patrick's rendition of "The Night is Young" brought the house down and a tear to the eye.

So-relating that to our project-I am trying to ensure the dry humour is maintained -but the pathos is also highlighted-without ever being self indulgent. The two moments that come to mind are when Hilda has to bid farewell to her singing teacher in Italy-and the paragraph that ends chapter five and her work in the war.

All I can say is that those words bring a lump to the throat every time.

I haven't started editing chapters 2&3 yet-I'm getting as much recorded as I can this week-and hope to have it finished by the weekend-so if necessary I can do another complete read-the following week-and maybe use the best of both versions.

It's one of those works-like being in a play, I suppose-where you see something different each time-and you worry that you're doing your best. The golden rule is that acting and performance are never the same,two performances running.

 You can set a performance in technique-which will always see you through-but for a performance to be genuine and believable-it should be flexible and go with gut feeling. If you believe in what you're performing/reading or singing each night-then you've done your job well. It's only when it becomes self indulgent that one needs to be careful.

I learnt a valuable lesson from John Newman(producer and Director of Newpalm productions)-think of the actors "third eye"(no pun intended please !)-and always have an ear to how the audience is reacting.

 Anyway-that's enough theory for today-back to the microphone to record "Escapes and Escapades"-the most difficult chapter in the book-because of the many continental characters.

I'll let you know how it goes later. I'll give myself a two hour recording slot-then I feel the gym may be calling for an unwind.

More random jottings later.

All my love 



Friday 3rd August 2012

"My Dearest Dears"

We were talking yesterday about "If only he'd looked my way" from "Gays the Word".Yes-the show is very different from the other Novello shows-because of the collaborator-Alan Melville. I think I'm right in saying that Cecily Courtneidge & Jack Hulbert collaborated with Alan Melville-before Ivor came on board(I'll check my radio documentary on La Courtneidge for the full details!)-or he agreed to write the ,music for them,after they'd worked on the book (IE-it wasn't his conception from start to finish)

I've seen various copies of the score for "Gays the Word" -but never seen the libretto sadly-quite difficult to get hold of.

A few years ago I was invited to take part in a revue of Alan Melville work("Called "Mellvillany") in Brighton-and directed by Elizabeth Seal. Sadly i couldn't join the cast due to a prior contract-but they included a lot of material from "Gay's the Word"-particularly-Vitality"-and "If Only he'd looked my way".

They have recently released  the most complete recording of the show that there is(I think it's a compilation of whatever they were able to find)-and it's available from Dress Circle in London(but get in there quick as the shop closes on 15th August after 33 years!)

There are some charming romantic numbers from the show-mostly sung by Lizbeth Webb(who originally starred in "Bless The Bride")

Relating all this back to the recording of "One Little Maid"-this is an appropriate moment to point out a possible flaw in "the history" !

Hilda remarks on the Abbey Road recording and a few radio interviews that "Bless the Bride "was a great favourite of her fathers and that Hilda's father and mother sang "This is my Lovely Day" at home in "the later years". She also says he gave her the vocal selection from the show-(describing the cover as grey and pink )to sing.

According to "One Little Maid"(Chapter 6)Hilda's father died at the end of 1947.

Well-"Bless The Bride" opened in July 1947.It may have been possible that the vocal selection was available ,soon after the show opened-but even if that was the case-father and mother can't have been singing it at home for very long-as father was killed by a freak accident at Christmas that year !

-Enough- I'm taking it all far too seriously !

Check out the score of Bless the Bride"-it is a beautiful show-and I was lucky enough to see a London revival in 1987 with Una Stubbs,Ruth Maddoc,Simon Williams and Jeremy Sinden(to name a few !)It's very similar to "Bittersweet" by Noel Coward-but has a happy ending-and is much lighter in style.

More jottings later-after i've done some work in the studio-the clock is ticking !



Sunday 12th August 2012

"My Dearest Dears";

I'm sorry I haven't written much this week about the creative process of the recording-due to a variety of reasons-but the good news is-the the recording itself is complete ! I've even included the preface/acknowledgements. Upon-re-reading both of these sections-I thought I could combine them into one .I've had to alter a few words and omit a couple of others-but the majority of it is there-and it makes an excellent rounding off of the whole project.

You'll also be pleased to know that apart from the cuts I made to the first chapter (regarding the long description of Bracket Towers)-everything else is recorded complete. I've put back a few paragraphs from Chapter one that I felt were important-particularly the recurring theme of the maze at Bracket towers.

It was touch and go whether the introduction and chapters 1&2 would fit on one cd-but they do-only just!

I've also had great fun-adding the pieces of music that introduce/close each chapter and each disc-very carefully chosen and that I hope you will all find appropriate. (Fans of Novello and Coward will not be disappointed!)I've used "Mimi's farewell" as a recurring theme on a couple of occasions-which I'm sure you will agree makes for a very moving ending to Chapter 5 and during Chapter 4-when Hilda has to say goodbye to her beloved singing teacher.

I've tried not to overload the project with music or sound-effects-it's best kept simple.

One of the trickiest was the Introduction-the demo of which is on the website!

I wanted to use an effect of applause-leading into the tanoy announcement and then lead into Hilda's opening line. Getting the sound balance on these three tracks was quite tricky-as they all seemed to be trying to out-do each other-and no matter how much I reduced the volume on the first two tracks-they still seemed to overshadow Hilda's voice. I'm happy to say-after re-doing the whole thing one morning-I got it right!

A few things have come to light whilst recording;

Julietta Cottodoerata -the guest opera singer in Rosa Charles was always described on the records as being Italian-the book states she is Spanish. To maintain the majority of allusions to her -I have altered this to Italian.

Also-I'm sure you must have assumed as I did-that the Ladies were touring with the Rosa Charles Company during the war years-"when a lot of the men were up at the front"! The book makes it clear that Hilda joined Rosa Charles after the war ended!

In The preface-Hilda  does ask us to allow for the off lapse of memory-so it's better we accept that there are indescrepancies along the way and not be too analytical about  it all . .(Interesting though-given Patrick's attention to detail)

A little note about some of the illustrations in the book; on page 131-there is a picture of Gil as Sir Despard Murgatroyd in "Ruddigore". I'm sure that owners of the book will  guess that it is a picture of Patrick-but from which show?

When we were doing "Cinderella" he told me that the photo was from a production of "Tom Jones" he was in. I never found out if it was professional production or one from the Edward German musical version that he may have done in his local operatic society.

Now that the main bulk of the recording is complete-I have a week to finish the editing which can be very long and arduous. Thanks to modern recording methods (I thoroughly recommend Audacity as a good all round recording package)-editing is relatively straightforward. One merely cuts and pastes as one would with a word processor. However-one must be careful not to cut out too much breath, so the phrase sounds unnatural or jumps too quickly to the next phrase.

So-it's a case of constantly listening again and again to the edits to make sure they work. Thank heavens for an ipod -to be able to listen to the recordings on the move.

(Again-I've been proof-listening every time I go to the gym for a work-out!)

The final cd has various "extras" on it. Now that the preface/acknowledgements are included they take up a further five minutes-so coupled with the abridged  sound desk recordings of "Cinderella"-there shouldn't be too much more to add.(I want you all to get your money's worth!)

I do have a recording I made at Patrick's memorial of "Hilda's greatest hits"-played by George Logan. I'll get the mini disc out see what the quality is like-and as long as you all feel that it is appropriate to use that on this tribute-I will try and clean it up a bit on the mixer and use that. Please let me know what you all feel on this point.

So-still- a fair bit to do in the next week-but I'm confident it'll be ready to send to Paul next weekend. (Finger's crossed!)

Before I end this "jotting"-I did promise to share my experiences on "Murder at the Vicarage" and "Cinderella". I'll add these to a new post-as they are self contained. (Enjoy)

-More news on the recording later in the week.





Wednesday 15th August 2012

"My Dearest Dears"

A sad day for all theatre, show and music lovers-the last day of dress circle.

I've been using that shop since it first opened in Covent Garden and then subsequently in Monmouth Street. Let us hope that the online store they continue to run will be able to meet our needs-but it'll never replace the magic of entering that lovely shop-and seeing what rarities were behind those doors.

You could also have your own work promoted there-indeed-I was going to give them details of the new cd and Paul's website to keep on their database-for all H&B fans. In fact I still might  !

A slight snag in the editing of the audio book! (Do not panic- after an evening in front of the computer-I've solved it(sort of!)-maybe splicing recording tape wasn't so bad after all in the old days!

(Mind you-that had it's penalties-in the old days-studios would literally cut tape from the master copies to make compilations or new copies-and in some cases-forget to splice the "cut" back into the master.If there are any G&S fans who have the 50's recording of "Princess Ida" from Decca-they'll know that the re-issue missed out King Gama's 3rd act patter song -"Nothing whatever to grumble at"- TERRIBLE!)

When I did the demos for Paul-to see how many cd's the project could be reasonably packaged as-the timings for chapters 5&6 seemed adequate to allow them to go on once cd. However-as I'm sure I mentioned-I took chapter 6 at a bit of a lick-and it needed slowing down in it's reading. Added to which-the small snippets of music that end each chapter-meant that yesterday I discovered that chapters 5&6(as they stood)would not fit on the third cd ! This was most annoying-as we don't want to add any more cd's to the set-and Paul has bought all the cases for the cd's

I also didn't want to cut any more text. (Apart from the "Bracket Towers" descriptions I've already mentioned.

So-what I have now done(and I'm sure you'll bare with me) is to take three minutes from the end of chapter 6(which concerns the discovery of Stackton Tressel  and the  purchase of  the old Manse)and added them to the start of chapter seven on the fourth cd-where there is ample space.

So-apart from a couple of paragraphs in chapter 6 -we've pretty much got there!

Hope this is all ok with everyone-but I wanted to make sure we've included as much possible in this tribute-and it's made me realise how difficult the producing of recorded books can be.

-I've just got to finish the editing of chapter 7 and the "Cinderella" bits and pieces today-so I'm confident I can get the masters to Paul at the weekend.

If we have any unexpected problems-please bare with us- I 'd rather take a little longer and ensure we've done our job properly-I'm sure it's what Patrick would have wanted-as a tribute to his work.

Back to the studio for a radio commercial-and then onwards and upwards.

All best wishes





Wednesday 15th August 2012

"My Dearest Dears"

-Watching the Novello-proms concert on Saturday night brought back a lot of memories doing "Perchance to Dream" for the aforementioned Alexander (Peter) Bridge.

You may remember from last night -the beautiful song-"Pray for me". Peter put it into "Perchance to Dream" for the Windsor Choir-to cover the scene change from Victorian to present day. Even though-we had a frantic scene change going on to transform" Huntersmoon" into the 1940's -I always had that beautiful song in my head.

At the end of the show every night-Peter would announce the following year's programme-including "a brand new production of "Murder at the Vicarage" starring Doctor Evadne Hinge as Miss Marple !

I made up my mind-there and then to try and be a part of that production-come what may!

Unfortunately-Peter Bridge died in March 1994, whilst working in Chesterfield-a great blow to us all. For all his faults-he gave a lot of opportunities to actors, young and old and kept touring theatre going in the most unlikely circumstances.

Peter's company was reformed by his business partner-Bruce James-with whom I've worked on and off ever since.

Cut to a Friday night in October 1994.I received a phone call from Bruce asking me to get down to Yeovil as soon as I could to take over the running of" The Sound of Music", which had had an "eventful" opening night-and needed someone to call the show from the corner.

I didn't need asking twice-as I knew that "Murder at the Vicarage" was being rehearsed the following week!

I took over running "The Sound of Music" with little difficulty-knowing the show very well. Peter Bridge's mother (Eileen Farrow) was playing Mother Abbess-and her rendition of "Climb every Mountain" had one or two hints of Hilda in it!

I broached the subject of working on "Murder at the Vicarage" and Bruce allowed me to attend rehearsals, until the show opened in Yeovil the following week.

In those days -everything was rehearsed within a week-even musicals-and it was touch and go come opening night-but a terrific team and a lot of adrenalin always got us through!

When I first met George Logan he immediately struck me as being very down to earth, always approachable and with a great sense of fun. Having heard "the voice" for years-it was sometimes odd to look up from my script during rehearsals and see George rehearsing in jeans and a sweatshirt!

I'm sure everyone involved in that production would agree-that it wasn't the "perfect production"-the set was rather incongruous (in fact I am convinced it is the same one on the Buxton G&S concert-re structured!)-and the costumes owed more to the local charity shops than Agatha Christie would have preferred!

However-it was a lovely happy company-many of whom I still work with and keep in touch with (particularly Damian Williams, Maggie Stables and Andrew Ryan.)

We opened in Yeovil-and when I asked Bruce if he wanted me to tour for the other three venues he happily agreed.

In Worthing in particular-we had a riot of a night when Maggie invited us back to her basement flat for a get together and a sing song. Luckily she had a piano in her flat and George didn't take much persuading to accompany everyone's party pieces. (I think I did "Only a glass of champagne "that night-but resisted any "impersonations"!)

It was in Worthing as well that the laundry facilities were rather basic-and everyone's shirts and separates were still damp for the matinee-because of a defective dryer! The rest of the cast did had a moan about this (and quite rightly so)-but George merely reached into his bag-and produced "spare "of everything.

(That's professionalism for you!)

Along the way we had question and answer sessions from the audiences, after a few of the performances-and George always remained in character-and answered as Evadne-the actress.

His performance was unique in the fact-that Miss Marple has to be almost under played to make it work (as I'm sure you'll agree after watching the likes of Julia McKenzie, Joan Hickson et al) George played the role beautifully-particularly the final scene with the murderer and the accomplice (I won't spoil the plot if you haven't seen it) - very serious and very well paced. Listening to the scene every night was always fascinating.

A couple of mis-haps did occur in the first week. The gun that features prominently in the play-and is subsequently fired at the end-broke! The firing arm literally flew off-and the poor actor who was firing it-could do nothing! The stage manager ,in desperation , ,threw a stage weight on the floor to create some sort "BANG"-but the damage had been done-and I'm afraid a few giggles were heard from the audience.

The play ends with Miss Marple making a call to the police.On this particular night-George walked to the phone, dialled the number and after a long pause said-"There's been an ------- ACCIDENT at the vicarage"! The curtain came down to much applause and an angry producer!

The other incident occurred in Chesterfield when Maggie Stables put her sherry glass down rather too forcefully-causing it to shatter! The ensuing improvisation between Miss Maple and Mrs Price Ridley-brought an impromptu round of applause from the audience! (Audiences love being in on the joke and always love minor mis-haps!)

In Peterborough-the Saturday evening and matinee performances were so close together that the friends of the theatre laid tea on for us-and as he was watching the evening performance, we were joined by -Patrick! We didn't get much of a chance to chat-as we had such a quick turn-around for the evening show. However-we met again afterwards, just before he drove George back to London.

All in all-a short but very enjoyable tour-over far too soon. The reviews were generally good. We all parted amicably-and vowed to keep in touch.

I saw George and Patrick in "Sleeping Beauty" at Bath the following year (1995/96) and popped backstage to see George between shows and afterwards as well.

I saw them both at Cannock in 1995 in what was essentially the "Stirred not shaken" concert. Then in 1998-whilst on tour -our producer told me she'd been offered company manager at Eastbourne on "Cinderella"-but was unable to give the commitment. My mind started thinking………..


Sunday -2nd September 2012

-Now that the Cd's of "One Little Maid " have been completed and are selling like hot  cakes-it seems appropriate to end this blog with an account of  "Cinderella" at Eastbourne in 1998-the last time I worked with the famous duo;

I'd seen H&B in Littlehampton around 1997 but the first time I saw them at Eastbourne was on a very sad day. My partner Michael's mother had died that day and was a terrible shock to us all. We had tickets booked for the Devonshire park theatre at Eastbourne and a lift over-so I suggested it might be far better to go over, rather than sit at home.

That was when I discovered the ladies  were due to play the "Wicked Sisters" in "Cinderella" for the Christmas season(1998/99)Also in the cast was Wendy Craig and a young lad called James McCourt-who has subsequently forged a presenting career for himself-including the national lottery for quite a time.

 I was due to play the Devonshire Park theatre, later that month-with a production of "Paddington Bear"! (Don't laugh-it was a year's work!) One of our producers told me that she had been approached to be company manager for the pinto season but she was so busy that she didn't think she could make it.

I've done pinto every year since 1992(16 years as Dame-the rest as villain or comic)-but that year I had no panto.I asked our producer if she could swing the job for me-but I was contracted for three days on "Paddington" which overlapped rehearsals for "Cinderella" .Our producer said she would see what she could do to persuade the production company-and sure enough I had a phone call offering me the job and working round the conflicting dates.

Of course-I was disappointed not to be performing that year-but work is work-and this was quite a long run-going to the 10th January-a lot longer than we have today! It also meant I could commute fromBrighton.

Rehearsals started two weeks before opening night(quite a luxury-given the limited time we seem to have these days)-and the company were very friendly and a good team-known in those days as TRENDS.

Our Director/Choreographer was the legendary Duggie Squires (he of the Young Generation Dancers fame!)He was fairly insistent on what he wanted from the show-but then you have to be like that with panto. (No time to hang around!)

My only criticism about the show really was that the script was rather slow.

(Panto needs to be played at a terrific pace-!

For a start-H&B didn't appear as the sisters -until at least half an hour into the show! They opened the show with them both as rival fairy godmother's-vying for the role-until Wendy Craig appeared as Nanny(from the TV series) and sent them off, before asking the audience what characters she thought they'd be suitable for.

This meant she was able to call them the "Wicked sisters"-instead of "the ugly" ones-which was far more suitable for them.

The costumes and sets for the show were magnificent. Trends, the producers-also produced the show at Brighton theatre Royal in those days-and were also costumiers themselves-so everything looked in pristine condition.

The "ladies" costumes were particularly stunning. (I've given all the photos to Paul over the years-and there is video footage on one of the "Specials" that I gave him)I think there were eleven costumes in total for them each (not bad as pantos go!)

I did feel that the "Sisters" should have been on a lot earlier. In any panto-as Roy Hudd always says-"get the comics on first" and keep the love duets to a minimum! (Or "you have more kids in the lav than in the audience"

The audience had to sit through various renditions of "No Matter What" and a lot of setting up of the plot before they actually appeared-which made it a very long show. (Almost three hours-which is really too long for a panto)

George and Patrick had written a lot of material which was very funny-and of course things are added over the course of the run, along with the inevitable ad-libs.

Act one included a very funny sun bathing sketch-leading into "Regular Royal queen"! (The first and last time I've ever seen G&S in panto) and ended with a ballet with the two sisters as classic ballet girls-to the tune of "Swan Lake".

Act 2 included a magic act (!) in the middle of the ballroom scene; if anyone remembers the Buxton opera house concert, where Hilda does her conjuring act with bottles-that was pretty much it-with the addition of a magic cabinet.

Patrick brought most of the small magic props with him-but the cabinet had to be sourced in Eastbourne. Fortunately -there was (and still is) an excellent magic shop in Eastbourne ("Coopers") and we also had the services of a local magician to advise us and build the cabinet. I remember they called themselves-"Marvel and Mother"-so I had to make a sign for "the act" and decorate the cabinet to match the sign!

Patrick also required out-size props like a "flit gun" a bottle of smelling salts, fairy wands of two  sizes for the opening scene ,traffic warden gear, large ball fans-the list was endless!

Rehearsals were held next to the Devonshire park theatre-which made life a lot simpler and we were able to liaise with the resident stage crew and technicians.

The theatre itself is a beautiful Matcham building-similar to Brighton and Richmond, with a lovely atmosphere-and very helpful staff. I always enjoy going back there-and always cast my mind back to that first time.

The only drawback of the theatre is that the back wall, on which are all the dressing room windows -backs onto another wall-and the whole area is enclosed-making it very hot and stuffy-and the fact that you can hear what is going on in every dressing room-if they have their windows open !

 I did Summer rep there for many years-and it was a constant joy being able to talk to the entire company by just opening your window! However-it also meant that any epidemics of flu and the inevitable coughs and colds that haunt all pantos-are more likely to be spread! 

The two dressing rooms on stage level-were of course given to Patrick and George-and Patrick asked for various accoutrements to be installed-particularly a couch-and more importantly-some hooks to hang all his jewellery on! I'm afraid I defaced the dressing room in a number of places by driving six inch nails into the space above the mirror! (Eager to please!!) I think it was only earlier this year they were covered over-after fifteen years!(I went back there in 2009 with "Strictly Murder" and bagged a dressing room in the basement-only to find the same couch  was behind the door


The technical and dress rehearsals contained their fair share of traumas-as they always do-the usual problems with radio mics, costume changes and logistics that plague and production.

However-we opened with a preview performance on the Monday. Before we got to this preview, however,-a few drastic cuts had been made-particularly George and Patrick's material-and sadly-the magic act was cut! After all the work on the props we'd made for it-it never even made the first preview-but was cut after the dress rehearsal.

I arrived at the theatre on the morning of the preview to be told that a baby grand piano was needed instead! When this proved impossible-to source -and to store offstage-they settled for a "small cottage upright! "

A quick phone home to my partner for a pink shawl to match Hilda's party costume-dressed the aforementioned instrument to both their liking.

For that one preview only-Hilda sang-"It All depends on you"-complete with a tap dance-as a sort of party piece at the ball. Sadly-that too was cut for the opening night!

We opened to good houses and good reviews. And the management of the theatre seemed very happy.

Bizarrely- all of the principals had understudies-in the form of the four professional dancers in the company. That is probably the only time I've done a panto with understudies in reserve. However-the only two without "cover" were....

Yes- you've guessed it!

As company manager I was in charge of rehearsing the understudies at various times-so I took the wise move of having the show recorded from the sound desk-so they all had something to work from-and to get the timing right.(Also-as a personal memento -but that's another story)It was to be a life saver in the end !

The running of the show was fairly straightforward-usually two shows a day-and the usual company manager duties such as keeping the show in order-and keeping an eye on the running time to make sure we didn't over-run.(Even with the cuts-it was still a long show)

 Patrick liked to make sure everything was in it's place(just as I do myself when playing dame)-so we made a special effort to make everything easy for them both-holding doors and curtains open for quick changes and ensuring props were personally handed to them both.

If you look on Paul's website-you'll see the magnificent ball gowns in black and white that they gave them. Patrick's crinoline was so large-the change had to be done in the scenery dock in the wings! (It was originally made for a film!)

 All was going well with the show until the day before Christmas Eve. George asked to see me and asked what proviso had been made for covering him and Patrick, in the event of illness. I had to admit that no contingency plan was in place-which was odd considering that the rest of the cast were covered by the male and female dancers-even Wendy Craig.

George told me he's started to feel pretty rough-with the flu bug that was going round the company.

Really-just to put his mind at rest I said I would look over the script myself and I was sure that given a day off on Christmas day, he would soon be fine-and manage to struggle on.

(I must admit-I started to pay close attention to the script and blocking from the wings -every performance after that, listening to the recording on the train home)

On Christmas Eve-when the cast should have been looking forward to a day off-poor old George told me he felt even worse!

I re-iterated our contingency and at the end of the two shows that day-I made sure George had my home phone number (-I was without a mobile in those days) and made sure I had careful note of his and Patrick's.

George and Patrick were staying in Eastbourne-rather than venturing home-as quite a few of the company were attempting to do.

Christmas day 1998 was a fairly quiet affair at home in Brighton-just the two of us.

We decided we would go out for a local drink around 7pm-when the fateful phone call came-and thank heavens I was in to receive it.

George told me he'd been feeling even worse-and with the best will in the world-there was no way he'd be fit enough to perform the next day.

Knowing myself-how any performer hates to miss a performance-unless at "death's door"-I knew that a decision had to be made.

I told George I would cover for him and to just concentrate on getting himself well-and looking after himself.

After we put the phone down-I took a deep breath and rang Patrick-who wasn't at all surprised what I had to tell him. I knew it was serious when he told me that after all those years together-George was very rarely ill.

He calmly agreed that it was the only way out of our dilemma and set about deciding what we would cut or adjust to get us through the show.

Understandably-the opening scene with the two of them in fairy land was cut-and the show would then start with Wendy and the children.

"A regular Royal queen" was put in for them both-after the sunbathing scene in Act 1.As that was one of their set pieces-it was decided to cut that too (even though -I can do the number in my sleep)-the rest would be more-or less as written-but Patrick asked if he could make an announcement before the show-explaining Dr Hinge's indisposition-and why "A man" was taking over the role. Patrick also advised against any impersonation (He must have had inkling.....)

Patrick's final words that night were-"don't worry-I'll get you through it"-which I thought was a very generous and kind thing to say. Even though I was excited about "going on", I was also very nervous at not having any rehearsal.

For the next few hours-I just ran through the show in my office at home, with the tape-getting the moves right and checking I knew the script.

Fortunately-I was getting a lift over to Eastbourne the following day, with one of the chaperones-and I made sure-I did as much preparation beforehand(make up -wise) as I could- I knew we would be very pushed for time-and I still had to learn a ballet ,the traffic wardens routine -and try all the costumes on !

Mercifully-the costumes fitted ok-we had good dressers-and even though George is a lot taller than myself-I had invested in taller heels for cabaret -which balanced things out-JUST!

As soon as the dancers arrived I collared them for a rehearsal of the ballet and the "Wardens"-which was relatively simple.

Then it was a case of just rushing round the whole cast and checking bits and pieces with them-but it was impossible to have a full rehearsal with such limited time We still had to get my stage management jobs covered by the stage crew..

By the time the half hour call was given, we'd covered as much as was humanly possible .I retired to George's  dressing room-quickly made up-and tried to keep calm.

It's bad enough having to go on for somebody-because you invariable get a groan or tut of disappointment from the audience-but in this case-with no rehearsal of the majority of the show-anything was possible!

I knew we'd get through it somehow-and that was about it!

Wendy Craig popped her head round the door on the quarter call and said-"don't worry-I've said a little prayer for you "-a very kind and generous lady!

As the sister's first entrance was now about half an hour into the show-It was a long time to wait! I heard Patrick's announcement over the tanoy-(there didn't seem to be too many groans from the audience!) -and it was perfect for the situation.

(For those who've ordered "One Little Maid"-I've started the Cinderella section with that message-for old time's sake!)

And so-it was time to make that first entrance! (Yes- I said a prayer before going on!)

(For those of you who have the new CD set-this will now clarify a lot!)

-As soon as I stepped on the stage-I felt "safe". Adrenalin is the body's natural drug -and my advice is-use those nerves in a positive way-never fight them-but use that energy-it's there to help!

Considering Patrick and I had never rehearsed together whatsoever (and looking back in hindsight-I should have done at least a line run with him) -it was pretty much "as per"! Yes-my positioning was a bit out on that first performance when the rest of the company came on in that opening scene-but they adapted,

Shunted me around-and made me feel ok.

The duet-"anything you can do" went pretty ok-I missed one line-but Patrick's razor sharp brain picked up the cue in an instant.

In a trice the first scene was over-and onto the first costume change.

(Anyone who's ever done quick changes as an actor, or has done dressing in the theatre themselves will know what I mean when I say that a good dresser is essential. They take the stress out of your job-but you must trust them totally, never panic and let them do it their way- they are your saviours!!)

Onto the sunbathing scene-without mishap-then the scene before the ball when the sisters make cinders tear up her invitation.(My dear friend -Nigel Ellacott- one half of the greatest sister actor in the country-always said to focus on Cinders during that scene-and stay motionless-so the focus is on her -That  is HER moment! I tried to follow that advice implicitly!

So-onto the ballet at the end of Act 1.Mercifully we had too excellent dancers- Stephen McGlynn ("Mama Mia") and Simon Breen (the longest serving cast member of "Chicago") Simon was from the West Midlands-and Patrick took great pleasure in imitating his accent!

-A few dodgy dance steps from yours truly-but we got there-and thus ended Act 1 !

I retired to the dressing room for a much needed cup of coffee.

(I am one of those actors who cannot stay still when I'm working-and like to be in costume for the next entrance ASAP. Nowadays-as I supply my own costumes-I call the shots!) I was anxious to get into the next costume and draw my breath but the dressers (quite rightly!)Followed their usual routine and brought the costume to me ten minutes before the entrance (as the dressing rooms were far too small to accommodate all the costumes.

The opening to Act 2 was set outside the palace-and ends with a cod dance from the principals-to hood-wink Dandini into letting them in. It culminated in a "chain" -one of those dance routines that is far easier to do, rather than explain. After years of doing them-it just happens. I seem to remember on that first performance-that it "didn't quite"-but I was shunted offstage right rapidly-for yet another quick change

-More dancing in the ball room scene with Hilda and the prince-and the classic lines;

EVADNE: Tell me Princey Kins-do you reverse?

PRINCE: Reverse? No!

HILDA: Oh what a pity-you're unscrewing her wooden leg!

 -Then onto a very quick succession of changes; for the "morning after" the ball-the sisters were sat at the kitchen table in housecoats suffering from hangovers, complete with ice packs and smelling salts. Various letters arrive at the front door (usually delivered offstage by myself)-telling them their investments have crashed-hence them both having to get into their finery for the slipper fitting.

 -For the "slipper fitting" -and being the height of "Absolutely Fabulous" -the sisters turn up as Patsy and Edina-complete with Bollinger Bottle and Harvey Nichols Bag(Can you believe Harvey Nichols wouldn't even supply us with one of their bags for free advertising-unless we bought something !)

Then-another quick change into Traffic Wardens costumes!

Patrick had re-written a lovely comedy number from "Rio Rita! And called it "Meter Maids! The idea was that the sisters were now being paid to be horrible to the public-by becoming traffic wardens.

-My co-ordination with the rest of the chorus got a little bit out of sync at this point-whatever way they seemed to move-I went the other. It was only afterwards-I realised I'd taken advice from the dancer who was following Hilda's steps, rather than the Doctor's and each side was supposed to be in opposition! (Ah well-I smiled broadly-and put on a brave face-and let comedy take its course!

Then all of a sudden-that first performance was over-into the red and silver walk down frocks and a parade down the stairs at the back with Hilda-to be met not just with applause from the audience-but, to my surprise-the entire company-which was a very generous gesture on their part-and one I haven't seen too often in the theatre over all these years.

That first show had gone by in a dream (almost)-proving the old adage-technique will always see you through.

We had quite a gap between the shows that day (Being Boxing Day)-so the DSM took me for a much needed pint (just the one!) next door.

-The errors from the matinee were rectified for the evening -which went more or less without a hitch.

I got home that night-exhausted-but on cloud nine!

 The following morning I rang George to see how he was and he asked if I could cover two more performances, which I was delighted to do.

The production secretary from Trends came down to watch the first show-proving very useful later-and I later had a knock on the door after the matinee -and there was a gentleman-Mark Burgess-Ex Brookside (from Brighton)-with whom I'd done my first ever job. He'd been in the audience with his family and when he heard Hilda's announcement-he was first of all disappointed-and then delighted when he heard I'd be playing the role.

The matinee sadly had to have some cuts made-because the shows were virtually back to back-so the sunbathing and the traffic wardens scenes were cut-just so the cast and crew had a reasonable break.

But-onto my final performance in Dr Hinge's shoes (well-mine actually-but you get the point!); This is the performance which is captured on the last cd of "One Little Maid". In those days we were using cassette's to record from the sound desk-which was a pity-because it misses out part of "Anything you can do" when the tapes turned over.

The theatre were wonderful and arranged the house-seats for my partner-and the producer who's swung the job for me in the first place-so an added buzz for that final show.

If you listen carefully to the recording-there are some classic moments-particularly as I was getting more confident as each show went on (I hope I didn't become too confident!)-and there are several ad libs between us both-unscripted-particularly in the opening scene.

The most memorable ad libs came in the scene set the morning after the ball. As stage manager-I was normally in charge of the knocking at the door and ensuring that the correct letters were placed in the correct order on the tray that Cinderella brings on. (I had made sure each letter was printed with the correct words from the script for that scene)But-let it be a lesson to anyone who uses a crib onstage-always know the words in your head-because that crib can go missing -and then you've had it!! (I've seen it happen so many times!!)

On this occasion-the stage hand was first of all late with the door knock-so I did the classic -"Did I hear a knock"-and then ensued an ad lib between us both about how I must be clairvoyant ! Then-when the letters arrived-Cinders gave one to me -and the other to Patrick. It was clear from his expression they had sent on a wrong letter from another scene! Bless him-Patrick-knowing I would probably know what should have been on it-and with a twinkle in his eye said-"YOU read it dear"! Naughty-I know-but he wouldn't have done that unless he had confidence in me and knew I'd get us out of the malady.

My partner came backstage-and was thrilled to meet Patrick afar all the years. We asked him to come for a drink with us-but always the professional-he felt he should rest his voice and take it easy

The run ended very happily two weeks later in mid January.

I was next to see them both -in their own show-twelve months later in Chesham-just before I tackled my first "Mother Goose". I was billed as "the Roller skating Dame". At the end of their show -they gave our panto a plug-and Hilda said-"It should have been starring the roller skating dame-unfortunately-the skates were loose-and she's run into the wall!!"

 I think we saw them a further three times-at Chesham and twice atWorthing-once working for Duggie Chapman-with whom I worked last Christmas-and then finally on their own. This show had been postponed from earlier in the year, due to Patrick's severe back pain. He made reference to it during the show-and looking back-there was something about the "incident "he recounted-that had an awful ring of truth about it.

Years later-when I arrived in Barnstaple theatre royal on a cold week in January 2002 with a new show-"The Real Monty". We were the next show in after the panto-which was Hinge and Bracket in "Sleeping Beauty" (I think) I was chatting to the stage crew about how it went -and they told me the news that Patrick had had to pull out of the show on health grounds-and his role had been filled by the wonderful Sarah Whitlock-with whom I toured many years later in "One for the Pot". That was to be Patrick's last pantomime.

Working with Patrick as Hilda was like working with an actress-graceful and dignified at all times-never flustered and in complete control-I felt very honoured and to this day remains a treasured memory;It took me back to a time at school when we had to write an essay on a famous person or persons we'd like to meet. At the time I was ridiculed for not writing about the latest football star or pop star-but guess who had the last laugh……. 

(NB TRENDS later became my agent for several years and were detrimental in getting me into "Round the Horne-revisited" and the WEST END-funny how things turn out !