Sylvia remembers her time
performing at the Ashcroft Theatre
In 1968 singing was added to my repertoire!
In that Balletomime production,
I did a song and acrobatic dance routine
to the Sound of Music classic ‘Eidelweiss’.
Edna Searles, director of the stage school
had a ‘vision’ of what this performance
should look like on the stage,
something like a huge butterfly
with gossamer wings.
My Mum set to work on my costume.
This involved goodness knows
how many yards of organza fabric
made into a huge circle-shaped dress
comprising of large triangle shapes.
It looked like a small marquee
once finished and I remember
Mum’s anguish at the thought
of me having to perform handstands
and back bends
in this dangerous creation.
We took it very seriously at the time
but had a good laugh about it afterwards.
The Croydon Advertiser
always reviewed the shows
but they weren’t
My name is mentioned
in one review in 1966,
but with no comment
on my performance,
which makes me think
it was probably unremarkable
to anyone apart from
my parents and grandparents
who always came to support me.
I remember the excitement
leading up to the shows.
The dress rehearsals,
the smell of the make up,
and then the moment
the curtain went up
you could feel the heat from the lights
and beyond that
the darkness of the auditorium.
I felt like a true professional.
It was magical!
From memory the dressing ‘rooms’
were very cramped
which made changing
between numbers quite chaotic.
In those days people didn’t take photos
as much as they do today,
not even of their own children.
The only photo of me
actually in a performance
is at the 100th Barnardo’s
where I appear on the Ashcroft stage
as a page boy, in a Victorian tableaux.
My costume was made up
of a type of fibre glass
which was a fashionable fabric
at the time for curtains
but completely inappropriate for clothes!
I remember it being very scratchy!
There were other dancing schools
such as the Doran School of Dancing
that also performed at the Ashcroft Theatre,
but Searles Stage School
seems to have been the most enduring.
I have my Dad to thank for keeping hold
of the old programmes and press cuttings
which I have only recently re-discovered
amongst his ephemera collection.
I was only at Searles for about 4 years
but it left a lasting impression on me.
I still love to watch live dance shows
whenever I get the opportunity.