Posts Tagged ‘Babes in the Wood (pantomime)’

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Florence Dysart as Maid Marion in the pantomime, Babes in the Wood and Robin Hood and his Merry Men, produced at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London, on 26 December 1888

May 3, 2014

Florence Dysart (active 1881-1897), English mezzo-soprano and actress, as she appeared as the principal girl, Maid Marion in the pantomime Babes in the Wood and Robin Hood and his Merry Men, which was produced at the Drury Lane Theatre, on Boxing night, 26 December 1888.
(cabinet photo: The London Stereoscopic & Photographic Co Ltd, London, 1888)

‘MY NEW PANTOMIME.
‘TEN MINUTES’ CHAT WITH AUGUSTUS DRURIOLANUS [i.e. Augustus Harris, manager of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane].
‘I risked my life in order to catch Mr. Harris, for I arrived at the stage door in the middle of the great scene in The Armada, and when I reached the stage soon began to feel as helpless as a straw in a maelström. I was driven hither by perspiring men-at-arms, and thither by panting halberdiers, shoved here by the blowing scene-shifters and there by gallant knights, glared at by beetle-browed Spaniards, glowered at by Elizabethan jacks, nearly spitted by the professional rippers [a reference to Jack the Ripper]of the period, crushed by the tumbling masts, blinded by the flash of musketry, and deafened by the cannon’s roar. So I was glad to find myself in the Harrisian haven, a cosy little den, from which the great Druriolanus directs his many enterprises.
‘MORE BEAUTIFUL THAN EVER.
”’Well, Mr. Harris, how is the pantomime getting on, and what is it to be?”
”’Jack the Giant K——, Babes in the Wood, I mean, replied Druriolanus, who had forgotten for the moment.
”’Will the Babes beat the record?”
”’The Babes will beat the record.”
”In what way, Mr. Harris? More money, more spectacle?”
”People seem to think that a successful pantomime is only a matter of money, It is a great mistake. You can’t make an omelette without eggs, of course, but many an omelette has been spoiled notwithstanding the sacrifice of a good many good eggs.”
‘MR. HARRIS SAYS, ”BRAINS, MY BOY.”
”’Your refer to brains, Mr. Harris?” Mr. Harris refused to answer; but a smile played about his swarthy countenance, and he, blushing in his confusion, began to take to pieces a little camera, with which he photographs designs and scenery.
”’There is no doubt that money spent on a pantomime without brains might as well be thrown into the gutter.”
”’Well, now, tell me, Mr. Harris, when do you begin to thank about pantomimes?”
”’Last January I fixed on the Babes, and began to make arrangements for my book, my business, my stars, my properties, and my sensations.”
”’Which are ——?”
”’My big scene will be the ‘Ballet of Birds,’ the most beautiful thing I have ever done. You smile. Ha! because I told you that last year, eh? You bow. But don’t I tell you that every year I try to beat the record? So it will be more beautiful than ever. The birds will be selected for their splendid plumage. Birds of Paradise, birds of Japan, birds of the East – but there, you can imagine the stage filled with hundreds of feathered things.” Without knowing, I should prophesy that Mr. Harris will invent a good many specimens unknown to ornithologists, such as birds with tails of diamond sprays, with golden beaks, silver legs, ruby eyes, and so on.
‘THE WOOD IN WHICH THE BABES ARE LOST.
”’Any other sensation, Mr. Harris?”
”’Well, I think I have got a novelty which will be very attractive. When the ‘Babes’ go into the wood, the wood will move with them. As they lose themselves the forest gets thicker, the scrub denser, until they reach the gloomiest glade of the forest, when they lie down and die. I have tried to get this effect for four years, but only now have I succeeded. The machinery is made abroad.”
”’Who are the ‘Babes’?”
Mr. Harry Nicholls and Mr. Herbert Campbell. Mdme. Ænea is Robin Redbreast, Miss Harriet Vernon is ‘the’ boy, and Miss Florence Dysart the leading lady.”
”’And your danseuse?”
”’Well, the pantomime public doesn’t care about the ballet in the sense that the word is used – I mean too much dancing.”
”’Nevertheless I suppose you will have a good many ladies on the stage?”
”’A few hundreds,” replied Mr. Harris, with nonchalance.
‘SQUINTERS AND ONE-EYED, THEY DON’T GET OVER ME.
”’I suppose you are overwhelmed with applications?”
”From all parts of the country, for months past. The process of selection takes some time and trouble, I can tell you. When a girl writes we ask her to send her photo and previous experience, and all the letters are carefully sifted. I need not tell you that all sorts of dodges are tried in order to secure an engagement. A young lady may squint, in which case she would probably send me the photo of her sister or her friend. Or she may have only one eye, and request the photographer to add the other. What I do is to sift the photos, and I have letters written to the likely ones requesting them to be at the theatre on a certain day. They come and are marched on to the stage. I then arrange them in regiments, putting them into little squadrons of all and small, and fair and dark, and comely and otherwise. With my secretary I then go through them, having already sampled them, so to speak. We have their letters, and as we pass each one I say to the secretary, ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C,’ ‘D,’ ‘E,’ &c., each of the letters having a special significance. This done, we then write to the selected ones. I need not tell you that this is a very important business which I always do myself.”
”’Have you many children in the pantomime this year?”
”’Not many. The children are a great deal of trouble.” The the joy bells began ringing, and Mr. Harris took me to see the grand procession in the Armada.’
(The Pall Mall Gazette, London, Tuesday, 4 December 1888, p. 6a)

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Nora Delany, Irish-born English variety and revue actress and singer and pantomime principal boy

April 5, 2014

Nora Delany (1887-1977), Irish-born English variety and revue actress and singer and pantomime principal boy
(photo: J.P. Bamber, Liverpool, circa 1914)

Nora Delany (Annie Leonora Delany) was the elder daughter of George Delany (1832-1895) and his common-law wife, Alice Ann May (1864-1914). Her first marriage was on 7 October 1911 at St. Saviour’s Church, Paddington, to the theatrical manager, Benjamin Gilles Maclachlan, a widower. Following his death at the age of 38 in 1916, Miss Delany is said to have married the journalist William Maxwell (1862?-1928), who received a knighthood in the New Year’s honours list of 1919. In fact, they were never married and their relationship was over by the time he married his ‘third’ wife in 1924. In 1932 Nora Delany (Mrs Maclachlan) married Prince Littler (1901-1973), the theatrical impresario.

For further information regarding Nora Delany’s father and family, see M.J. Delany, ‘William Delany (1832-1895) of Durrow, Queen’s County,’ Genealogical Society of Ireland, vol. 13, Dublin, 2012, p. 56.

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‘A NEW BEAUTY-ACTRESS.
‘Nora Delany, a stately young brunette, with a joyous look in her smiling brown eyes, has arrived her with her friend, Audrey Thacker, in readiness for Saturday afternoon’s production of Babes in the Wood. Therein the new beauty-actress will figure as principal boy. These two artists travelled separately. Otherwise the entire J.C. Williamson Company, which appeared in Adelaide last Saturday, occupied a special train to the number of 82 persons, reaching Sydney at 4.30 p.m. on Tuesday.
‘Miss Delany (Lady Maxwell) is the wife of Sir William Maxwell, K.B.E., a journalist who represented the London ”Standard” during the Commonwealth celebrations of 1901, when he was attached to the Duke and Duchess of York’s party. Since then he has become identified with financial affairs in London, where he is the director of several companies. Before he settled in the metropolis, however, Lady Maxwell visited India, China, Japan, Ceylon, Arabia, and the United States with him, and one of her reasons for joining the present theatrical combination was to gratify her love of travelling and to see the country of which her husband so often spoke with enthusiasm.
‘Miss Delany was born at Abbeyleix, Queen’s County, but she left Ireland during her early school days, and lived for eight years in Manchester. She began her state career by joining the chorus of Dick Whittington at the Grand Theatre, Croydon, in 1910 [sic: it was actually Christmas, 1908], and was also in the original production of The Arcadians in London, before realising that she must discover some opportunity for individual action to justify her own faith in herself. The ambitious girl did this by securing a music hall engagement, and in vaudeville quickly made a name as ”The Girl in Uniform,” spirited songs of a more or less martial character roving the source of her first great successes.
”’I studied under Winslow Hall, a singing teacher of distinction in London,” remarked the actress at her Elizabeth Bay flat yesterday, ”and it was a great pleasure to me to meet him and his wife once more in Adelaide, where he is a professor at the Elder Conservatorium. His wife, Georgina Delmar, was principal boy when I made my start at Croydon, was also one of the many Carmens with the Carl Rosa Co., and I hear that she sang Delilah in the first production in Australia of Saint-Saens’ Biblical opera by the Royal Philharmonic Society of Sydney. Really, I am a trained contralto, but the voice is not much used in these revue pieces, and, in fact, it is almost a special art to do without it whilst articulating distinctly. I am still nominally engaged in vaudeville, as I am under ten years’ contract to Mr. Charles Gulliver, and I am mulcted in a penalty throughout my absence. For this reason I shall sail for home as early as I can in August, after completing the New Zealand tour.”
(The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, NSW, Australia, Thursday, 16 March 1922, p. 6e)

A copy of the contract between J.C. Williamson Ltd and Nora Delany, signed on 26 January 1921, relating to the latter’s engagement to play Principal Boy in pantomime in Australia and New Zealand during the 1921-1922 season, is in the theatre collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, museum number: S1193-2012.

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Erroll Stanhope, ‘England’s Lady Whistler’

February 18, 2014

Erroll Stanhope (1872-1969), English siffleuse, musician and music hall and pantomime actress and singer, sometime billed as ‘England’s Lady Whistler’
(postcard photo: Alfred Ellis & Walery, London, circa 1903)

Erroll [sometimes Errol] Stanhope (Erroll Augusta Stanhope Drake) was born on 20 February 1872, the elder daughter of Collard Augustus Drake (1843-1911) by his second wife Julia Annie (née Eales). Drake, better known as ‘A. Collard,’ was an accomplished flautist, a flute and piccolo manufacturer trading as A. Collard & Co., and author of Method of Practising the Flute (London, 1875). Miss Stanhope’s earliest public appearances seem to have been with her father. She later went on to feature in various pantomimes, including Babes in the Wood at the Alexandra Theatre, Sheffield, at Christmas 1899, and as Jack in Sweet Red Riding Hood, at the Kennington Theatre, produced on 26 December 1901. She also made numerous music hall appearances before her marriage in 1904 to the music hall singer, Whit Cunliffe (1876-1966).

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‘Miss Erroll Stahope rivals Mrs. Alice Shaw, the original belle siffleuse, in the gentle art of whistling. She has whistled, and the Sketch tells us, from babyhood. In those early days she whistled for her own amusement, now she purses her pretty lips and whistles for the delectation of the playgoing public. During the run of King Kodak at Terry’s Theatre [produced on 30 April 1894] Miss Stanhope whistled nightly ”‘Way Down the Swanee River,” as well as a whistling piece of her own composition. In one thing she beats Mrs. Alice Shaw – she whistles three notes higher; her register being from C natural to C sharp. By way of change Miss Stanhope, who does not look more than sweet seventeen in the Sketch‘s portrait, sometimes plays the flute, and is even suspected of a determination to learn the Scottish bagpipe when her engagements leave her the necessary time.’
(The Weekly Standard and Express, Blackburn, Saturday, 11 August 1894, p. 7f)

‘QUEEN’S HALL.
‘SUNDAY AFTERNOON RECITALS of VOCAL and INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC.
‘TO-MORROW (SUNDAY) AFTERNOON, at 3.30; doors open 2.30.
‘Organist, Mr. Alfred Hollins. Vocalists, Miss Beatrice Frost, Mr. Iver M’Kay. Violinist, Miss Cecile Elleson. Flute Quartette, Miss Erroll Stanhope, Messrs J. Radcliff, J. Lemmons, A. Collard. Accompanists, Mr. Henry J. Wood, Mr. Richard Rickard. Admission free; reserved seats, 6d., 1s., 1s. 6s., 2s., at Robert Newman’s box-office, Queen’s Hall, Langham-place.’
(The Morning Post, London, Saturday, 25 May 1895, p. 6b, advertisement)

Royal Pier Entertainments, Southampton, Hampshire, 3 August 1895,br> ‘… Miss Erroll Stanhope specially distinguished herself as a vocalist and siffleuse. Her song ”Little Miss Prim” was encored. Her whistling solos were perfection itself, and several encores followed.’
(The Hampshire Advertiser, Southampton, Saturday, 10 August 1895, p. 6a)

‘MISS ERROLL STANHOPE Theatre Royal, York. – ”Miss Erroll Stanhope is a young lady who has a diversity of attractions. As Daisy Madcap she sings and acts well; but, beyond that, she is able to whistle with a sweetness and brilliancy rarely met with in either male or female. On Saturday night she whistled Arditi‘s ‘Il Bacio’ [orchestral version with saxophone] with all the sweetness and brilliancy of execution which one would have expected from an accomplished piccolo player. The inevitable encore followed.” – Yorkshire Herald March 25th [1899]’
(The Stage, London, Thursday, 28 March 1901, p. 2d)

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Mrs Alice Shaw is said to have made several cylinder recordings. One, with her twin daughters, entitled, ‘Spring-tide Revels,’ described as ‘A whistling trio novelty,’ was released in 1907 by Edison in the United States.

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February 8, 2014

Mab Paul (1873/83?-?; active 1900-1916), English actress
(photo: Albert Sachs, Bradford, circa 1905)

Mab Paul appears to have begun her career as a dancer in musical comedy and pantomime, appearing during 1900 in a tour of My Girl headed by John Le Hay, and at the Opera House, Crouch End, north London, during the Christmas season of 1900 in the pantomime Babes in the Wood. She subsequently played the part of Melantho in Stephen Phillips’s poetic drama, Ulysses, with Herbert Beerbohm Tree in the title role, at Her Majesty’s Theatre, London, produced on 1 February 1902. In April 1903 Miss Paul appeared in the small part of Marozia in Sir Henry Irving’s English production at Drury Lane of Dante after Sardou and Moreau’s original play. She accompanied Irving’s company in the same piece, opening for a three week season at the Broadway Theatre, New York City, on 26 October that year. Following a short tour the company returned to England in March 1904. After that Miss Paul spend some years on to tour the United Kingdom and then, at the beginning of 1910, she went to Australia where she continued her career until about 1916.

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Mab Paul in Sydney, Australia, October 1910, during a tour of Australia with George Willoughby’s English Farcical Comedy Company
‘ASSAULT ON AN ACTRESS.
‘Miss Mab Paul Attacked.
‘Her Assailant Worsted.
‘An attack upon Miss Mab Paul, leading lady of the George Willoughby Night of the Party Company, was made by an unknown man at the North Shore on Thursday night. Fortunately she was able to defend herself, and her assailant was the chief sufferer.
‘Miss Paul travelled by the 11.30 p.m. boat from town, and on arrival at the northern shore decided to walk to her quarters at Beulah flats. Within a few hundred yards of her destination she was set upon by a footpad, who caught her by both arms and endeavoured to snatch her handbag. Miss Paul, who is just over six feet, and something of an athlete, finding herself in the grip of the man, made a determined effort and kicked him hard upon the shin. He let go his hold, whereupon the actress hit him across the face with her handbag. Her assailant staggered back. Miss Paul then dropped the gag, and, clenching her fists, struck the man twice. The first blow glanced off, and her left hand grazed along a wall, causing a painful wound. The second blow was more effective, catching the footpad full upon the point of the jaw, and causing his downfall. As he fell Miss Paul recovered her bag and hurried home.
‘A sympathetic public gave her a rousing reception in The Night of the Party last night, when she appeared [at the Criterion Theatre, Sydney] with her hand in bandages.’
(The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, NSW, Australia, Saturday, 22 October 1910, p. 14b)

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Mab Paul, English actress

February 8, 2014

Mab Paul (1873/83?-?; active 1900-1916), English actress
(photo: Albert Sachs, Bradford, circa 1905)

Mab Paul appears to have begun her career as a dancer in musical comedy and pantomime, appearing during 1900 in a tour of My Girl headed by John Le Hay, and at the Opera House, Crouch End, north London, during the Christmas season of 1900 in the pantomime Babes in the Wood. She subsequently played the part of Melantho in Stephen Phillips’s poetic drama, Ulysses, with Herbert Beerbohm Tree in the title role, at Her Majesty’s Theatre, London, produced on 1 February 1902. In April 1903 Miss Paul appeared in the small part of Marozia in Sir Henry Irving’s English production at Drury Lane of Dante after Sardou and Moreau’s original play. She accompanied Irving’s company in the same piece, opening for a three week season at the Broadway Theatre, New York City, on 26 October that year. Following a short tour the company returned to England in March 1904. After that Miss Paul spend some years on to tour the United Kingdom and then, at the beginning of 1910, she went to Australia where she continued her career until about 1916.

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Mab Paul in Sydney, Australia, October 1910, during a tour of Australia with George Willoughby’s English Farcical Comedy Company
‘ASSAULT ON AN ACTRESS.
‘Miss Mab Paul Attacked.
‘Her Assailant Worsted.
‘An attack upon Miss Mab Paul, leading lady of the George Willoughby Night of the Party Company, was made by an unknown man at the North Shore on Thursday night. Fortunately she was able to defend herself, and her assailant was the chief sufferer.
‘Miss Paul travelled by the 11.30 p.m. boat from town, and on arrival at the northern shore decided to walk to her quarters at Beulah flats. Within a few hundred yards of her destination she was set upon by a footpad, who caught her by both arms and endeavoured to snatch her handbag. Miss Paul, who is just over six feet, and something of an athlete, finding herself in the grip of the man, made a determined effort and kicked him hard upon the shin. He let go his hold, whereupon the actress hit him across the face with her handbag. Her assailant staggered back. Miss Paul then dropped the gag, and, clenching her fists, struck the man twice. The first blow glanced off, and her left hand grazed along a wall, causing a painful wound. The second blow was more effective, catching the footpad full upon the point of the jaw, and causing his downfall. As he fell Miss Paul recovered her bag and hurried home.
‘A sympathetic public gave her a rousing reception in The Night of the Party last night, when she appeared [at the Criterion Theatre, Sydney] with her hand in bandages.’
(The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, NSW, Australia, Saturday, 22 October 1910, p. 14b)

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Myra Hammon

June 16, 2013

Myra Hammon (1886?-1953), Australian singer, actress and pantomime principal boy
(photo: unknown, probably UK, circa 1914)

Myra Hammon appears to have begun her career with J.C. Williamson’s Musical Comedy Company, touring Australia in 1902 and 1903 in Florodora and The Circus Girl. She afterwards in 1906 began a partnership with Alice Wyatt and together they were billed as a serio-comic duo or ‘the Sandow Girls.’

Tivoli Theatre, Adelaide, Saturday evening, 16 February 1907
‘The Tivoli Theatre was crowded in every part on Saturday evening, when a change of programme was given, and several new artists made their first appearance. The performance was bright and lively all through, and called for vigorous demonstrations of appreciation. The Sandow girls, Misses Myra Hammon and Alice Wyatt created a favourable impression, first by their physique, and next by their vocal talent. In the second part they gave an amusing travesty of heavy weight-lifting and Sandow exercises, and the ease with which they manipulated huge dumbbells afforded genuine mirth, not unmixed with astonishment on the part of many in the audience.’
(The Advertiser, Adelaide, South Australia, Monday, 18 February 1907, p. 8 f; the Sandow Girls routine would appear to have been inspired by the song sung by Carrie Moore, herself an Australian, and chorus in the London production of The Dairymaids, a musical comedy which opened at the Apollo Theatre, London, on 14 April 1906)

Hammon and Wyatt were included in Allan Hamilton’s Mammoth Vaudeville Company, when it played at the Theatre Royal, Hobart, Tasmania, on Saturday, 15 June 1907.

‘Myra Hammon and Alice Wyatt, the Australian Sandow Girls, are doing splendidly in Great Britain, and having a good time.’
(The Newsletter: an Australian Paper for Australian People, Sydney, New South Wales, Saturday, 14 August 1909, p. 2c)

‘Myra Hammon and Alice Wyatt, the Australian Sandow Girls, are touring the Continent, opening at Vienna in August.’
(The Newsletter: an Australian Paper for Australian People, Sydney, New South Wales, Saturday, 21 August 1909, p. 2a)

At Christmas, 1910, Myra Hammon and Alice White were appearing in the pantomime of Babes in the Wood at Brixton, South London. Shortly afterwards they seem to have gone their separate ways and in the Spring of 1914 Miss Hammon was married:
‘News has leaked out in Birmingham (Eng.) of the marriage, which took place quietly in a registrar’s office, of one of the local ”principal boys” – Miss Myra Hammon. The happy man is Mr. Charles Butler, a well-known business man in that city. Miss Hammon is leaving England for a world’s tour, including Australia, South Africa, and India. In the [music] halls she appears with her sister, Edie [sic] Wyatt, as ”Hammon and Wyatt, the Australian Sandow girls and singers.’
(The West Australian, Perth, Western Australia, Saturday, 4 April 1914, p. 9g)

Miss Hammon did not retire from the theatre until about 1920, however. She was the Prince Perfect in the pantomime Cinderella at Christmas 1914 at the Grand Theatre, Middlesborough, before appearing in Look Out, a revue, produced on 4 October at the Empire, Newport, prior to an extended tour, including the Hippodrome, Leeds, the Empire, Finsbury Park, and the Hippodrome, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Cast included Ennis Parkes (Mrs Jack Hylton). Myra Hammon was then seen as Principal Boy in the pantomime Babes in the Wood at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, at Christmas 1916, and again at the Bordesley Palace, at Christmas 1919.

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Doris Ashton

May 20, 2013

Doris Ashton (fl. 1919-1938), English popular singer, variety theatre entertainer and pantomime principal boy
(photo: Hana, London, circa 1919)

Doris Ashton appears to have had some success as a popular singer in the United Kingdom during the 1920s and ’30s. She began her career in 1919 and that year and the following she was at the London Coliseum. In 1920 she made a handful of recordings in London for the Regal label. She next appeared in Pot Luck!, described as a ‘Cabaret Show,’ which opened for a successful run at the Vaudeville Theatre, London, on 24 December 1921. The cast also included Jack Hulbert, Beatrice Lillie, Mary Leigh, Margaret Bannerman, Norah Blaney and Gwen Farrar, and Maidie Scott. ‘Miss Doris Ashton has a good voice, which she has no need to force.’ (The Daily Mirror, London, Tuesday, 27 December 1921, p. 12a)

During 1926 and again in the 1930s, Doris Ashton made a number of broadcasts for the BBC. In the late 1920s she also appeared with the entertainer Billy Rawson. They were at the London Palladium together in 1928, the year in which they made an 8 minute synchronized sound film in London for the De Forest Phonofilm company, which was released in May that year. In January 1929 the couple appeared in the pantomime Dick Whittington and His Cat, at the Metropole Theatre, Glasgow. This was followed in March by a personal appearance on stage at the Astoria cinema in London.

Doris Ashton’s other pantomime parts included as the Princess Guenevere in the Brixton Theatre, London, pantomime of 1927/28, St. George and the Dragon. At Christmas 1931 she was principal boy at the Brixton Theatre’s pantomime, Sleeping Beauty. ‘Miss Doris Ashton is a principal boy good enough in diction, presence, and voice for Drury Lane – or should it be in these days be the Lyceum?’ (The Times, London, 28 December 1931, p. 8b) (The last Drury Lane pantomime was The Sleeping Beauty at Christmas 1929). Miss Ashton returned to the Brixton Theatre for the Christmas pantomimes of 1936 and 1937, respectively Babes in the Wood, when she appeared as Robin Hood, and The Sleeping Beauty, when she appeared as the principal boy.