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Arts Centre - Towngate Theatre
Towngate - Basildon Town Centre

Christmas pantomimes.

A big feature of the Arts Centre and later the Towngate Theatre's events programme was the annual Christmas pantomime. These began in December 1971 with the first professional production 'Jack and the Beanstalk'. Many famous actors would grace the stage in these popular productions whilst also offering the opportunity for local talent to work alongside the professionals.

Arts Centre - 1971 - 1975


Pantomime: Jack and the Beanstalk
Date: Monday 27th December 1971 - Saturday 8th January 1972
Guest star: Barry Wade as the evil wizard Warlock
Supporting Cast: Brownie Dene as Jack, Roy Kean as Dame Durden, Jack Seaton as Miffins, Clifford Hensley as King Wilfred the Wurthy, Angela Allport as Princess Marigold, Lynn Osborne as Fairy Starlight, Paul Howlett as Giant Blunderbore and the Gillian Farr School of Dancing in various roles.
Performances: 2:30 p.m. & 7.30 p.m.
Ticket prices: Adults 50p & 60p & Children 30p & 40p.
Promoter: Alan Gale (also writer) Clifford Hensley (Producer)

Barry Wade had small acting roles in many television production including Callan, The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Who and The First Churchills. Clifford Hensley had also made appearances on television in very minor roles such as Dads Army, Dr. Who and The First Churchills.


Pantomime: Cinderella
Date: Tuesday 26th December 1972 - Saturday 13th January 1973
Guest stars: Joe 'Mr. Piano' Henderson as The Baron
Supporting Cast: Vivian Day as Cinderella, Jeanette DuBarry as Dandini, Norman Sherriffe and Jon James as the Ugly Sisters, and Alan Martin as Buttons.
Performances: Boxing Day and Saturdays 2:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m. & 8:00 p.m. Wednesday December 27th, Friday December 29th and Monday January 1st and Friday January 5th at 2:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. Monday January 8th, Friday January 12th at 4:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. No Sunday performances.
Ticket prices: Adults 65p & 55p. Children 40p & 30p. 10% discount for parties of 20 or more (excluding Boxing Day and Saturdays).
Promoter: Basildon Urban District Council
Comments: The production was written by Philip Bernard and directed by Aubrey Phillips.

Joe 'Mr. Piano' Henderson (02/05/1920 – 04/05/1980) was the special guest star at this years pantomime. His popularity began in the mid 1950's when he had some success as a recording artist with five songs reaching the UK singles charts. A much publicised affair with the singer/actress Petula Clark kept him in the spotlight and he later went on to present a BBC Radio 2 show for many years.


Pantomime: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Date: Wednesday 19th December 1973 - Saturday 5th January 1974
Guest star: Charles Hawtrey as Muddles
Supporting Cast: Chris Edmunds, Wayne Forbes, Frank Lynn, Diane Moran, Shirley Vaughan, Billy Wells and the Gillian Farr School of Dancing in various roles.
Performances: 2:30 p.m. & 7:00 p.m. No performance 25th December.
Ticket prices: Adults 66p & 77p & Children 33p & 44p.
Promoter: A Philip Bernard Production.
Comments: This pantomine version starring Charles Hawtrey and guest star Bryan Johnson was later staged in Malvern, Worcestershire on Monday 22nd and Tuesday 23rd April, 1974.

Charles Hawtrey (30/11/1914 – 27/10/1988), spent much of his life either performing on the stage or appearing in front of the camera. His earliest stage performance was in 1925, aged 11, and by the late 1930s was appearing in the very successful Will Hay films. In the 1950s he became a television star after joining the cast of The Army Game as well as making the first of 23 appearances in the 'Carry on' films, for which he was best remembered.


Pantomime: Aladdin
Date: Monday 16th December 1974 - Saturday 4th January 1975
Guest star: Monica Rose
Supporting Cast: Johnnie Clayton as Wishee Washee, Anna Lethieullier as Princess, Dick Collins as Widow Twankey, Pauline Collins (not the tv star) as Slave of the Ring and Richard Baker (not the BBC newsreader) as a chinese policeman.
Performances: 2:30 p.m. & 7:00 p.m. except December 22nd and 29th, matinees only. No performance 25th December.
Ticket prices: Adults 70p & 80p & Children 35p & 45p. Parties (20 & over) - discount 10%.
Promoter: Dick Collins (Producer)

Monica Rose (11/02/1948 – 02/02/1994), at the time of this pantomime was a very well known game show hostess. She worked alongside main host Hughie Green on the hugely successful Double Your Money and The Sky's the Limit quiz shows. She was also a singer and had released an album Oh! You Beautiful Doll the same year as this production. She retired from show business in 1977. Supporting actor Johnnie Clayton was also known to TV audiences with appearances in Doctor in the House, Comedy Playhouse, Armchair Theatre and Dixon of Dock Green. He later went on to appear in the very first episode of BBC's soap drama Eastenders in a non speaking role where he was immortalised for being the shows first 'death'.


Pantomime: The Owl & the Pussycat Went to See....
Date: Monday 15th December 1975 - Saturday 3rd January 1976
Guest star: Gillian Bailey as Pussycat
Supporting Cast: Gordon Griffin as Owl
Performances: 2:30 p.m. & 7:00 p.m. No performance 25th December.
Ticket prices: Adults 90p & £1.10p & Children 50p & 60p. 10% reduction weekday booking 20 or more.
Comment: Billed as coming direct from London's Westminster Theatre. Written by David Wood and Sheila Ruskin based on the works of Edward Lear.

This years guest star was Gillian Bailey (b. 14/06/1955), who was famous for playing the part of Billie in the television series Here Come the Double Deckers. She went on to play another prominent role in Thursday's Child and a supporting role in Follyfoot.

Towngate Theatre - 1976 - 1987


Pantomime: The Gingerbread Man
Date: Monday 13th December 1976 - Saturday 8th January 1977
Guest star:
Supporting Cast: Unknown
Performances: 2:30 p.m. & 7:00 p.m.
Ticket prices: Adults & . Children & . Party discount.
Comment: A children's musical by David Wood.


Pantomime: Flibberty and the Penguin
Date: Monday 12th December 1977 - Saturday 31st December 1977
Guest stars: George Layton and Brian Cant
Supporting Cast: Unknown
Performances: Monday 12th - Friday 16th 10:15 a.m. & 1:45 p.m. Monday 19th - Friday 23rd & Monday 26th - Friday 30th 2:30 p.m. & 7:00 p.m. Saturdays 17th, 24th & 31st at 11:00 a.m. & 2:30 p.m.
Ticket prices: Adults £1.25 & £1 Children 75p & 60p. 10% discount for 20 or more on weekdays.
Comments: This was the third pantomime written or co-written by David Wood.

Writer and actor George Layton (b. 02/03/1943) had a leading role in the television comedy series Doctor in the House as the character Paul Collier, and in the subsequent sequels. As a writer he wrote episodes for On the Buses and Robin's Nest among others. Brian Cant (12/07/1933 - 19/06/2017) was an actor, presenter and voice artist. His credits include Play School, Play Away, Dappledown Farm and many others. He also narrated and sang the songs in the children's 'stop motion' puppet series Camberwick Green, Trumpton and Chigley.


Pantomime: A Christmas Carol
Date: Monday 11th December - Saturday 30th December 1978
Guest star: Alan Browning
Supporting Cast: Unknown
Performances: 11th - 15th December at 10 a.m. & 2:20 p.m. December 16th, 18th-23rd, 26th - 30th at 2:30 & 7 p.m.
Ticket prices: Adults £1.00 & £1.25. Children 60p & 75p. Party discount.
Promoter: John Farrow for Impresarios Ltd.

Alan Browning (23/03/1926 – 07/09/1979), was born Alan Brown; changing his name to Browning when he took up acting in the 1950s. He had a number of small roles in a handful of films but is best remembered for playing the part of 'Alan Howard' in Granada Television's Coronation Street from 1969 to 1972. He married his co-star Patricia Phoenix in 1972 and was still with her when he died on 7th September, 1979.


Pantomime: The Wizard of Oz
Date: December 1983 - 31st December 1983
Guest star: Veronica Doran
Supporting Cast: Unknown
Performances: 2:20 p.m. & 7 p.m.
Ticket prices: Adults & . Children & . Party discount.
Comments: Produced by Charles Vance.

Veronica Doran (b. 17/05/1948) had many television and film roles but is perhaps best remembered as playing Marion Yeats (née Willis) in Coronation Street between 1982 and 1983.

Text researched and written by William Cox, 2023.
Copyright © 2023, B. Cox - Basildon History Online. All rights reserved.
Page added: 14/07/2023
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