Reminiscence and Resource Centre












Robinson Crusoe - 1938
The first Bata pantomime ever was presented to a large and appreciative audience in Bata Cinema on Wednesday night.
Entitled “Robinson Crusoe” (or “Sailors don’t care”) it was written and produced by Edgar Joseph of the Wholesale Department.
The story of the play (described as a new and unusual version) is that of a work-shy young man in Tilbury who is shanghaid to be cook on a schooner. But, since he brings his shipmates bad luck, he is marooned on a desert island. Here he meets Man Friday and the native inhabitants.
Told to prepare a feast in the new white king’s honour, the natives catch the captain and the mate of the schooner who were thoughtfully returning to Robinson with another keg of brandy.
Saved by Robin’s intervention from being cooked for the feast, they stay to enjoy it instead. They are joined by sea-nymphs, who tell the visitors about pearls to be found on the sea-bed.
Robin immediately sets up a mass-production pearl factory.
Later there comes to Paradise Island another ship, with Robin’s girl, Sylvia, his mother Boadicea, and Sylvia’s maid, Dinah. They have followed from Tilbury.
In the end, true to pantomime tradition, everything turns out well. Dinah and Man Friday recognise each other as long lost sweethearts, Robin is reunited with Sylvia (who was waiting fro him to make a fortune), Boadicea decides to go into a laundry partnership with the sea-captain.
The show went through without a hitch. Its libretto included about twenty popular songs, and several dancing items. The costumes, mostly made by the girls who took part, were colourful and charming.
The services of everyone who took part, and of Al Saunders and the Bata concert orchestra in their newly-constructed pit, were given freely.
After the show, Mr Schmidt and Mr Bata went onto the stage to congratulate the artistes. They expressed themselves as being delighted with the performance.
Following is a list of those who helped in the production. To them, and to others “behind the scenes” who are not named here, go the heartiest congratulations of those who saw the show.
Boadicea Crusoe - Harold Elliott
Robinson Crusoe - W H Hickerton
Sylvia - Ilse McDowall
Bill Brownlegs - Jim Cook
First Mate - Maurice White
Dinah - Adelaide Littlefair
Man Friday - Reggie Milford
Simple Sammy - Harry Nevill
Chorus of Tilbury Girls (trained by Miss Ilse McDowall): Ruby Comley, Doreen Comley, Millicent Evans, Doreen Jones, Frances Webber, Doris Rompen, Sheila Taylor, Dinah Hattam.

Chorus of Jack Tars (trained by Mr J McDowall): William Forbes, John Jones, Martin Cave, Thomas Thompson, George Watters, Terence Lanagan, Thomas Casson, Benedict McArthy, Colin Whalley, Thomas Hull.

Chorus of Sea Nymphs (Women’s league of health and beauty, trained by Miss Coleridge): Eileen Reynolds, Alice Atkinson, Eileen Jennings, Ethel Sewell, Daisy Matthews, Jean Cullum, Minnie Doran, Betty Crowley.

The pantomime was produced by Edgar Joseph. Stage Managers, ARthur Howard and George Lowe. Prompter, Eileen Sellslagh, Drop Scenes executed by Leslie Godden. Most of the dresses were designed and made by the cast. Additional costumes by Chas. H. Fox, Holborn. Shoes of the choruses made especially in the Bata Factory.


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