Susan Cole: Memories of the Fol de Rols
A wonderful show
My proper name was Susan Collins but when I joined Equity, I had to change it to Susan Cole.
My first time in the Fol de Rols was in Bournemouth in 1961 as dancer in a show with Ken Dodd, Alma Cogan and the pianists Rawicz & Landauer and later as principal dancer in a pantomime with Richard Hearne, again in Bournemouth.
I first met my friend Jenny Haley when we were young dancers in the ‘All England Festivals'.
When she started a ‘Fols' website, I was really pleased because it was such a wonderful show, it would be sad for the memories to be lost forever.
Thrilled to be accepted
Many famous and wonderful artists performed in the ‘Fols' and I always felt thrilled to have been with the company for many seasons. It was the show that was billed as; "The Show Any Child Can Take It's Parents To".
After working for Betty Lunn (Wilby Lunn Productions) for several seasons, I had just finished a season at Clacton Marine Pavilion as a soubrette when I auditioned for Hugh Charles, John Russell, Peter Felgate and Cherry Willoughby.
I was thrilled to be accepted as a Soubrette for their 1964/65 winter Tour of the North of England & Scotland.
During the tour we played at: The Theatre Royal, Newcastle; His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen; The Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh; Theatre Royal, York; His Majesty's Theatre, Bradford and the enormous Alhambra Theatre in Glasgow.
My friend 'Bibs' (Roberta Noakes, a dancer) and I had many amusing experiences on the tour in all the various "digs" and flats that we shared.
We really enjoyed the tour and played to mostly full houses.
Neither of us could skate
Don Arrol was our comedian and it was at the time when he had taken over from Bruce Forsythe in "Sunday Night at the London Palladium". He spent Sundays rushing up to London to do the show there and then rushing back to do the show in the North every night – twice on Saturdays!
I remember doing a Publicity Photo shoot with Don at an ice-rink in Bradford, but as neither of us could skate, it was a case of trying to keep each other on our feet! We did eventually manage some pictures!
Also in the company for these shows were: Joan Mann, Charlie Stewart, Harry Dickman, Susan Bailey, John Keston, Barry Daniels, Denis Bowen, Roger Finch and all the dancers.
Eastbourne at The Congress Theatre
The 1965 summer season was in Eastbourne at The Congress Theatre. We had Semprini to add to a slightly changed cast and it was a really good show playing to full houses with a loyal public!
Semprini was a lovely person and in one programme he played in character as ‘Franz Liszt'. Barbara von der Heyde danced beautifully as he played ‘Leibestraum' in the ballroom scene. I remember doing ‘There's a hole in my bicket' with Eddie Malloy.
Johnny Clive joined us along with Sally Ford and of course Harry Tait and Bert Waller on piano with Derek Jones on drums.
In May 1966 we started touring again with shows in places like: The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry; The Grand, Blackpool; The Knightstone Theatre, Weston-super-Mare; a summer season at The Pavilion, Worthing and finally The Ashcroft Theatre, Croydon.
Ken Wilson, Jennifer Toye, Howard Davies, Richard Smith and Sandra Wrennal were amongst the cast I loved the season in Worthing having lots to do in the show. Dancer Wendy Mungean and I found some very pleasant places to stay, with good landladies!
Some of the numbers I remember performing were:-
‘Bookshelf Ballet'; ‘Chasing Rainbows' and ‘Three Joes'. My favourite was ‘Three Joes' as I sang and danced South American Joe, a really lively number!
Very special friends
For the January 1966 winter tour, we were joined by Freddie Sales as our comedian along with his "Poon".
Also joining the comedy team were Howell Evans and Patricia Kane and of course their wonderfully funny "Charladies Act". Howell & Pat were to become, and still are my very special friends and we have shared many memories and laughs over the years.
Margaret Macdonald, John Keston, Barry Daniels, Sandra Wrennel were also in the show which started in The Theatre Royal Brighton and went on to Kings Theatre Edinburgh and Glasgow's Alhambra.
On television again
The 1966/67 Christmas Show at Brighton Theatre Royal went well and it was good to see many of the friends we had worked with previously.
One cleverly written number that always went well in the show was ‘The Merchant Mikado' which was a combination of ‘The Merchant of Venice' and ‘The Mikado'.
We always had a couple of different programmes so that people could come several times over Christmas.
In April 1967 the Fol de Rols went on Television again - ‘The Show of the Week' on BBC 2.
Arthur Askey, an old ‘Fol', joined us again with Freddie Sales, Jack Tripp, Peter Felgate, Kathleen West, Margaret Mc Donald, Joan Mann, Jennifer Toye, Howell Evans and Pat Kane, Denny Willis, Johnny Mack and more. I remember being Principal Dancer in the ‘Sea Shanties' scene. Our choreographer was Dougie Squires.
The original script for this show makes for interesting reading with all the different sketches, it is a shame that it was too long ago to have a recording of the show in the archives.
Very happy times
The Summer 1967 Season for me was to be in Weston-super-Mare. (There were usually two show venues in the summer and the other one was in Eastbourne that year)
Again we all had lots to do in each of the three programmes and my ‘South American Joe' was Freddie Eldrett.
I loved working with the ‘Fols' and like everyone who worked for them I learnt so much.
I went on to play Principal Boy in Panto at the Theatre Royal, Bath and then I was married. I have a son Mark and a daughter Jane. I carried on teaching for the rest of my working life, but I will never forget my very happy times in ‘The Fol de Rols' and all the friends I made.