Roger Holmes

Roger Holmes

One wonders if, amid all the lighting effects and volume, some of the polish and stagecraft has disappeared from our stages. Writing about Roy and Jackie Toaduff last time brought it  home to me just how smart their performance was. The way they came on, their stage wear, the way they took a bow and acknowledged applause – it was all so polished. They weren’t by any means the only ones who worked like that in those days. Folk could remember the days of the great Hollywood musicals, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Sammy Davis Junior and so on. On our stages there were quite a few artistes, specially duos, who gave lovely, polished performances – song and dance artistes like Les & Kay Collins and Bill & Helen Manton. Scotland’s premier comedian at that time, Lex McClean  used them in his shows, and he was very particular. (When you come off, if you don’t leave them shouting for more, you’re no use to me” he would say, and was known to sack artistes on the spot if they transgressed.) I saw his show in Glasgow once, and his accent was so broad and he spoke so quickly that I only understood about a third of what he said, but it was all so funny; the sketches in particular had the whole theatre in stitches.

Some of the vocal duos shone brightly too, the delightful O’Connor Sisters, Michael Angelo & Laurie Lee – a lady who subsequently “got religion”, or Marie Joy & Mike Davis (when she was a teenager Marie took part in shows in the Doncaster parks as part of the wartime Holidays at Home programme). From the North East came The Barrie Brothers, and a little more local were The Linacres, both wonderful to watch.

Colin Robins & Angie Dean were another class act, and the one I knew best. Colin began as an impressionist on the variety stage in the 1950s. He met the dance act Angie & Debbie Dean and subsequently married Angie and the act was formed. (Debbie  married the comedian and T.V. presenter Johnnie Ball, and they had a daughter, Zoe Ball.) Colin & Angie developed and honed their act, largely in the clubs, but also in summer seasons at the seaside. They were regulars at Morecambe in Hedley Claxton’s show “Gaytime”, not a title one would use nowadays. Theirs was a superb offering, full of artistry, smartly dressed and presented, and became popular on the cruise ships.. But then Angie began to develop a debilitating illness which sadly cut short their burgeoning career. So Colin went solo, achieving renown as a pantomime dame while caring for Angie. At first she went with him to these shows, but when she became unable to travel he only took bookings near to his home in South Yorkshire. I remember her well, latterly a frail figure in a wheelchair, but with a mind as sharp as a razor and witty with it. Their son, known at Tam Ryan, has worked his passage through the clubs, has been in stage musicals and for the past few years has used his winning personality in the major Buttons-type role in the big pantomimes at the Manchester Opera House. Colin told me some time ago that he was writing his autobiography. I hope he hasn’t given up, because he is full of wonderful tales about his life in the business which should be written down.

By the way Roland and Jackie are still at their place ,The Chantry, in Dronfield. Roland is 90 and Jackie not too far behind. Every so often they have a get together of old entertainer chums, and I’ve been told a very, very merry time is had by all.


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