Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Marjorie Reid: soft shoe shuffle

Members of the buddy cafe in Swinton, have been sharing with Phil and I their memories..These pieces will form part of a collection of poems, interviews and artworks that attempt to reflect what its like living with dementia. Last week I was very excited to meet a new member of the group the remarkable Marjorie:

'Once you've done soft shoe shuffle you never forget, soft shoe shuffle, used to start off with that-everyone does.' 

I was in the theatre business dancing with my twin sister, toured all over- Scotland, Wales all over we went. Acrobatic and dancing, in theatres in Manchester everywhere, The Reid Twins. I lost my twin sister she died a few years ago. We worked so many, Manchester Empire, in variety shows, worked with a lot of top of the bills. When I I was younger we stayed in digs, then worked from Skegness as we got older. 

We had an imaginary mirror, my sister worked the front, I worked the back (I was always a bit weightier than my sister) we called it Mirror Fantasy. We made all our own costumes, made everything in those days to save money. Couldn't afford the big money for dress makers.

We traveled on our own, aged 14 when we started traveling. Went behind the iron curtain during the war, worked for the troops.

Had an agent from the West End, he did the bookings for us, his office in Hyde Park. My father wanted us to go into the business, he always wanted to be in the business himself, but never was. He worked at the Ford Motor Company in Dagenham,  Essex.

Just me and my sister aged 14. We wanted to go abroad, we where fed up going around Dagenham and Essex, so that's what we did. Father wanted us to go into the business, he was a frustrated signer.  We did our own act, Manchester, Scotland and Wales, behind the Iron Curtain during the war to entertain the troops, used to see them walking down the road doing the Goose Step. We got bookings everywhere, just contacted the agent and they booked us in. 
The Reid Twins, acrobatic reflections

We worked to get where we were, we did our own act, we didn't want to mix with other groups. We worked all the theatres, in London The Windmill Theatre, played there about four times. That's the one, 'we never close' the sign said in the war. Had the nudes there, (statues more than anything else) the singers, the dancers and the comedians. That was our life. 5 or 6 shows a day, hard work but we enjoyed it. A variety artist, as well as a comedian, and a singer to break it up, The Windmill Theatre in the West End. Worked with all the top of the bills, Bob Hope and quite a few.

Connie's husband was Jacko Fossett (the Fossett's were one of the biggest names in clowning. He toured with us when need be. 

We worked with Little Billy Merchant, a nice sort of midget, a really lovely person. We used to do Christmas at Belle Vue, did all the comedy. Billy was Jacko's partner. Nobody told us what to do, we had brains and used them. Once you've been in the theatre business you have to stick in it. Tap, acrobatics and tumberling. 


Andy Eastwood said...

Had many happy evenings staying with Marge, Connie & Jacko in Skegness when working at the Embassy Theatre. Please give Marge my love if you should see her again!

Unknown said...

I've just read this article... Marjorie is my godmother, and I haven't seen her, Connie or Jacko since the 1970s... although I read Jacko's obit a few years ago. When we were kids Connie used to sneak my sister and I into the big top when Jacko was performing. Would love to know where Marjorie is now, hoping of course that she' s still around.