THE late entertainer Bruce Forsyth performed several times in Portsmouth during his long career.
Here we run an excerpt from his autobiography Strictly Bruce, recounting a show at the Kings Theatre in Southsea.
8 February 1958
Puss in Boots
S H Newsome (for Newco Productions Ltd)
Charlie Drake, Bruce Forsyth, Jack Edwardes, Albert & Les Ward, Liss Lennon, Robert Dorning, Diana Day, Bunty Turner, Henry Livings, Maureen Moore, Roger Williams, the Ashley Children (Dance School), Les Brazilianos
Takings for week to Dec 28: £2211/7/9
‘Less than 18 months prior to that Finsbury Park Empire show, I was also on a stage, but in a very different capacity: panto at the Kings Theatre, Southsea. Puss in Boots starring Charlie Drake.
‘Pantomime, especially in prominent theatres such as Southsea’s Kings, was a big deal. The length and breadth of the country, the biggest stars of the day would feature and the audiences flocked to
see them. The productions ran for months, from Christmas through to the spring. This was big show-business.
‘So, you would think Puss in Boots was an excellent booking for someone of my standing in 1957, and you would be correct. Up to a point. You see, I wasn’t so much in the pantomime as in front of
it. Charlie Drake and I never actually met on stage. All my scenes, four or five pieces, were what we call ‘front cloth’, meaning little routines I performed to keep the audience entertained while,
behind me and the closed curtain, the scenery for Charlie’s next sketch was frantically being set up.
‘Yes, one of my routines was that old favourite featuring the different types of golfer, while another involved me taking off a great pantomime tradition - I’m playing a boy, playing the principal boy,
who is normally played by a girl. I think I’ve got that right.
‘In fact, that last sketch very nearly put me in hot water; and, let me tell you, hot water was in short supply where the incident occurred.
‘I arrived back at my digs after an evening performance to find my landlady waiting. She had been to the show and wanted to tell me what she thought. ‘I enjoyed myself very much,’ she said. I was
delighted. Then came the bombshell. “Mr Forsyth, I must say, you have very nice legs”. I locked my door that night! And frankly, given the level of accommodation I could afford back then, I was
lucky it had a lock. I’d have been up all night in terror otherwise.’