Dicky was the “doll” with round shiny patches of red on her cheeks and a Tommy’s cap and hospital blue coat. She supplied the glassy stare herself most successfully. For these character stunts we simply put on caps and coats over our “Fantastik” kit and left the rest to the imagination of the audience who was quick (none quicker) to grasp the implied suggestion. I was “Mr. Lenard Ashwell” in aforementioned bowler, moustache, and coat. We made up the dialogue partly on the basis of the original performance, and added a lot of local colour. I asked the questions, and was of course supposed to ventriloquize the answers, and, thanks to the glassy stare of my doll, her replies almost convinced the audience I was doing so.
They had all seen the real thing a fortnight before, so that we were greeted with shouts of laughter as the curtain went up.
The trouble was, as we had only written the book of words that day it was rather hard for me to remember them, so I had taken the precaution of safety-pinning them on my doll’s back. It was all right for her as she got the cue from me. It was not difficult, half supporting her as I appeared to be, to squint behind occasionally for the next jest! On one of these occasions my incorrigible doll horrified me by winking at the audience and exclaiming, to their delight, “The bloke’s got all the words on my back!” She then revolved out of my grasp, and spun slowly round on her stool. This unrehearsed effect quite brought the house down, and not to be outdone, I raised my small bowler repeatedly in acknowledgment!
I was a little taken aback the next morning when the man at the petrol stores said, “My, but you wos a fair treat as Charlie Chaplin last night, Miss.” (It must have been Corporal Coy’s moustache that did it, not to mention lifting my bowler from the rear!)
The more local colour you get in a show of that sort the better the men like it, and we parodied all the latest songs as fast as they came out. Winnie and “Squig” in Unity More’s “Clock strikes Thirteen” were extremely popular, especially when they sang with reference to cranking up in the mornings:
Wind, wind. Oh
what a grind!
I could weep, I could swear, I could scream,
Both my arms ache, and my back seems to break
But she’ll go when the clock strikes thirteen.
Oh, oh (with joy), at
last she will go!
There’s a spark from the bloomin’ machine,
She’s going like fire, when bang goes a tyre
And we’ll start when the clock strikes thirteen!
The whole programme was as follows:—