My request for anyone who knew of theatrical ‘digs’ in the city brought a few responses.
One was from Bob Emery, who remembers an establishment in Greetham Street which used to run from Somers Road and emerge into Guildhall Square. Bob tells me there was a place called Ma Brads along the street. He used to wait at the stage door of the Theatre Royal to meet the stars and managed to get the autographs of Laurel & Hardy who, he believes, stayed at Ma Brads.
Mrs A Russell, of Monckton Road, Copnor, tells me that her late grandmother, Clara Russell, lived at 22, Durham Street, Southsea, from 1901 until 1965 when the street was demolished. She raised three children at the house while her husband was in the navy. She died in 1935 and to raise funds Clara took in theatrical turns.
One name Mrs Russell remembers her grandmother talking about was ‘Two-Ton’ Tessie O’Shea. A large woman with blonde hair, you can see her in a cameo role on stage performing in the original version of The 39 Steps starring Robert Donat.
Apparently Tessie broke some furniture and ‘gran’ had to complain. Whether she was compensated or not is not recorded.