The Pantomimes
We have in our collection most of the scripts of
the School pantomimes. If you have any of the
others, we would be happy to pay for a photocopied
set. We can also let Old Girls have photocopies
at cost price, most editions being 40-60 pages long.

1948        Ali Baba (incomplete)
1949        Aladdin
1950        The Babes in the Wood
1951        The Sleeping Beauty
1952        Dick Whittington
1953        Little Red Riding Hood
1954        Cinderella
1955        Goldilocks and the Three Bears
1956        Sinbad the Sailor
1957        Jack and the Beanstalk
1958        Beauty and the Beast
1959        Mother Goose (not held; we need a copy)
1960        Robinson Crusoe (not held; we need a copy)
1961        --- (no pantomime)
1962        Puss in Boots
1963        Humpty Dumpty (not held; we need a copy)
1964        The Babes in the Wood (not held; we need a copy)
1965        Sleeping Beauty (incomplete)

The Pleasure Gardens Theatre
In 1996 we got very excited about a project being planned by Mr Barrie Crees of Folkestone. He had read Caroline's book on the story of the School, and this prompted him to contact Maureen about a book he was researching on the old Theatre where nearly all the pantomimes were staged. We invited him to that year's SMOGS reunion and he was brave enough to face a cottage full of middle-aged women. A couple of us contributed our reminiscences about the pantos, and they are reproduced here. Barrie was even planning a big launch of the book, but somehow it never happened, and then we lost touch with him. What a disappointment!
Marylyn Grange was responsible for front-of-house, and felt proud of the pantomime when she saw the audience's reaction. People gave far more than the cost of the programme --- often £5, which was a lot in those days. It was a way of showing their appreciation and support, since the tickets were free of charge! Once she had a walk-on part as a lady-in-waiting. Back-stage was cold and boring: a good book was necessary.
Do please send us your memories and impression of the pantos.

Caroline Thomas remembers back-stage in some detail, for she kept notes in a diary. "The dressing rooms were named after famous theatres: Scala, Royal, Globe, etc. In my 1959 diary is a layout plan of the Royal showing a wash-basin, settee and chair. We used the make-up counters to sit on as our make-up was done at the school before we left. My mother, Ruby Thomas, was one of the make-up artists and I used to help her. She was very clever and experienced in theatrical make-up, working also with the Folkestone Hythe Operatic and Dramatic Society, and giving lectures occasionally. She was always given the character parts to make up, such as the dame, the wicked baron and the fairy queen.

One of the rooms was designated for storing bouquets, fruit and chocolates which people gave some of the girls at the end of the final performance. We had to go and find them ourselves, and it was rather humiliating to search the table and find nothing for oneself. But it was exciting if a friend came to the dressing-room and announced 'There's a huge bouquet in there for you!' Occasionally there would be something for a girl who was not expecting anything, and it got left behind after the show, but someone usually stuck flowers in water and they could be collected next day when everything was being cleared up.

For 'Cinderella' we used real white ponies, and the sight of them being led up a ramp at the rear of the theatre is etched in my memory.
June Bonniface in the title role, Mary Hill as the princess. "And then there was the Smallest Fairy! So very small, so very sure of herself, so very pretty. Susan Dolton, just five years old, stole all hearts. The big audience didn't worry her at all: she danced as though she did it for the joy of dancing, not because there were people in front of her."

1949   ALADDIN
Wendy Woolliams played principal girl to June's Aladdin. "But what of Widow Twankey's Cow, Claribel? Jill Langton and Edna Stocker, the front and back legs, can rest assured that, although they were unseen, they were, perhaps, the brightest stars of a very bright firmament of delightful young actresses in a grand production."

The Folkestone Herald reports that the sweet little babes (Susan Dolton and Caroline Thomas) "even managed to resist a sly peep or two at the audience when they were supposed to be asleep!" Caroline writes: "The reporter's naivety amazed me at the time. Susan and I were already old stagers at the age of seven, and knew well that even woodland glade lighting dazzled the actors in the limelight spot and there was no point in peeping at the audience, but that a carefully practised eyelid technique allowed one to watch the Ballet of the Little Birds. I still remember my lines: 'And I want to grow up to be brave and strong, like Robin Hood!' I spoke from the heart for I did indeed long to become as tall and beautiful as June Bonniface."  June's leading lady was Valerie Rye, and "Maureen O'Sullivan (Simple Simon) had the longest part and the responsibility for much of the humour. She showed herself as a comedian born ..."

"The Finale was tremendous: a cascade of colour and music and a triumph for the producer, and the final curtain left every member of the audience wanting more, as it always should and so seldom does."

Caroline: "For me, the Boy Babe, that finalé was a physical torment as I had been dressed in a white suit decorated with silver thread which gave me an itchy rash. Talcum powder was dusted all over me to give some protection, but it wafted out like steam from my neck, wrists and ankles as I walked down to the footlights to take my bow while resisting the temptation to have a good scratch. The audience must have thought I was on fire and that is how I felt."

Until now the pantomimes were attended only by the school's teachers, girls, their parents and friends. Following 'Babes in the Wood' several people wrote appealing for the public to be allowed to see the show, but Mr Hasson's response was that it would entail extra performances and the school could not spare the time out of studies. As the school grew, so did the number of parents wanting to come, and somehow we found the time for extra performances, but it was never open to the general public.

"In Isobel Drew, who played the Princess, we had surely the perfect Principal Girl. She looked charming, acted naturally, danced beautifully, and sung prettily, and she went through her long part with an ease and assurance remarkable in a fourteen-year old." Maureen O'Sullivan as Buttons clearly made an impression, too, for one of the juniors wrote a letter to her 'crush': "I think you were the best in the pantomime and you (sic) Voice was lovely. I wish I were you and be Buttons. P.S. I am sick of being a Rabbit. I'd rather be Molly or fairy."

Isobel Drew was Dick with Vida Farhad as Alice. "Sally Harris as Susie Sunshine won all hearts. She scintillated throughout the show and is a delicious soubrette and a most talented little actress." Two performances were given that year.

"Possibly the name of St Margaret's is destined to go down in history as the school whose cricket XI created a record. Yet it seems that in the intervals between their sporting achievements they can attempt the formidable task of getting together before an audience which, since it does not consist only of school parents, might be deemed more critical than those usually found at school entertainments, something like 140 girls to present a full-length pantomime at the Theatre... The average age of the cast was under 11 years, the Principals were mostly 16 or 17." (Folkestone Herald).

"If you have never seen a St Margaret's pantomime you have missed, perhaps, the most remarkable achievement of its kind by any school, anywhere." (Folkestone Gazette).

"...the magical change from kitchen to lighted coach with real white ponies, from Cinderella in rags to Cinderella in her ball dress, took place before our eyes in a matter of mere seconds of enchantment." "Sally Harris was the ideal Cinders... my programme told me she is to make the stage her career and I am certain she will score a distinct success."

"To anyone who has followed the run of St Margaret's pantomimes, the departure of Sally Harris and Isobel Drew seemed a bitter blow. How, and from where, could Mr Hasson replace two such talented girls? Well, he certainly waved his magic wand to some purpose for in Sally Chiverton with her first speaking part as the Princess, and Deidre Judkins with her first speaking part as Prince Charming, he gave to the audience a most charming and talented couple... these two fourteen year old girls acted like veterans but with a freshness and charm that won all our hearts." Three performances.

"A cast of 163 girls, 226 costumes, 11 sets of scenery, 3 ballets, 14 new and original songs!" A famous actress wrote: " tends to forget that they were school-girls and to assess it as a professional production."

Attended by over 4,000 people. "As scene followed scene we became more and more amazed to reflect that we were watching a children's performance." "I salute you, St Margaret's! I salute your artistry, your team-work, your talents! I salute your actresses, your singers, your dancers, your stage-managers, and even the charming young lady who wanted me to buy two programmes!"

"Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this remarkable show is that the skill of its producer makes it appear that everyone is thoroughly enjoying it all and that it all appears so effortless. I have said before, and I repeat it, that no other school anywhere in the world could stage anything like it." "Diane Gillegin, who exuded personality and sang delightfully in a soubrette part, was another success." Four performances.

"It had everything a good panto should have. It was fast; it was funny; it was a sheer delight to eye and ear. A great favourite, Sonia Hughes, was making her last appearance as leading comedienne and her performance as Idle Jack was brilliant. Her sense of fun, her facial expression, her versatility were all of a high order. And how she worked! A new Principal Boy, Susan Ramshaw, was making her debut, and it was a most auspicious one."

"John Bull's Christmas Party: what an enchantment! Very small children dancing as though they were really happy at a party and the smallest of them all hopping and skipping about as though her life depended on it."

   No pantomime due to Mr Hasson's illness.

"...not, perhaps, as spectacular as some of the earlier pantomimes but to compensate for the lack of a stupendous transformation scene, this was surely the slickest, most cheerful, colourful and happiest of them all... the ease and grace of the dancers spoke volumes for Miss Kennedy's training. How well those young people use their arms!" Over 4,000 people watched this pantomime.

The Pleasure Gardens Theatre had closed and the school staged the show in its own hall in Grimston Gardens. "Mr Dudley Hasson,... with only a slight reduction of numbers in the cast, made use of the limited resources with great skill... The 'hit' of the show was probably Barbara Hodgson as 'Olga, the beautiful spy', a witty piece of character playing." Five performances.

The first repeat title in the history of the school's pantomimes. "A cast of 105 girls between the ages of six and seventeen was so efficiently rehearsed that not one of them put a foot wrong in two and a half hours on a comparatively small stage."

Another repeat title. "This was no mammoth spectacle ...The charm of this production was its speed, smoothness, colour, tunefulness and grace... The dancing was a joy... a great tribute to the work of Miss Moya Kennedy.

This was the last St Margaret's pantomime.
Mr Hasson and leads from 'The Sleeping Beauty'
Isobel Drew, in 'The Sleeping Beauty'
Margaret Harrison and friend in 'Sinbad the Sailor'
Jennifer Sutcliffe as the Giant, and Deidre Judkins as Jack
Susan Dolton as Red Riding Hood
Sally Harris as Cinderella
Sally Chiverton and Deidre Judkins in 'Goldilocks' and the Three Bears
Chinese scene in 'Humpty-Dumpty', and (right) Gillian Chesterman and Suzanne Ross.
The pantomime was always livelier and more enjoyable on the days the school was in the audience. The girls would clap and cheer like mad, and those on the stage responded with more brilliant performances. The next day, when only parents and friends were there, the show was more restrained. But the final performance perked up because we were emotionally affected by knowing it would all be over for another year. Many tears were shed as the last curtain came down.

A Russian dance in Robinson Crusoe
"Puss in Boots" - Principal Boy and Girl Mandy Gibbs and Christine Heminsgley, Barbara Hodgson as Lady Sandgate, Penny Smith as Puss.
Listen to an original audio recording of "Puss in Boots", 1962!
The LP was unearthed by the brother-in-law of Susan Morwood, year 1964, and you can listen to it by clicking here, with your speakers on. Hear the overture, speech and songs both Acts, totalling 46 minutes (the dance music was not recorded). By moving the black dot along the track you can reach other parts of the recording. To return to this page, click your left arrow rather than closing the tab.

Sonia Hughes in 'Mother Goose',
The Beatles featured in 'Babes in the Wood'
Principals in the finale of 'The Sleeping Beauty'
Deidre Judkins (Jack), Sally Chiverton, Sonia Joyce, Jane Merrow
 Oh, the sheer joy of  being
 allowed to  dress up and
 show off!

More photos of Mother Goose in colour below!
These coloured pictures were taken by Mr Milton at 'Mother Goose' in 1959
Go to Reunions / Previous page for a 2007 reconstruction of this scene!
Dick Whittington
'Babes in the Wood' finale scene
 More panto photos
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