Stars turn out for panto book launch

Salisbury Journal: Prunella Scales,TimothyWest and Stephanie Cole with author Chris Abbott Prunella Scales,TimothyWest and Stephanie Cole with author Chris Abbott

WELL-KNOWN faces gathered at Salisbury Playhouse on Saturday to celebrate the launch of a book reflecting on the golden age of pantomime.

Fawlty Towers actor Prunella Scales was joined by her husband, Coronation Street star Timothy West, and fellow actor Stephanie Cole for the launch of Putting on Panto to Pay for the Pinter.

Cole, who also appeared in Coronation Street as Roy Cropper’s mother Sylvia Goodwin, and is a familiar face from roles on stage and screen including cantankerous Diana Trent in sitcom Waiting for God, Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, Tenko and Open all Hours, wrote the foreword to the book.

She said: “People can use it and learn from it. It’s a wonderful book.”

Putting on Panto to pay for the Pinter is written by Chris Abbott, a lecturer at King’s College London who grew up in Salisbury.

The book looks at the pantomimes put on by Henry Marshall at the Playhouse over a 30-year period.

Cole was married to Marshall and starred in three of the shows.

The scripts for Marshall’s works are now owned by their daughter Emma Battcock, who gave Abbott access to them, as well as to her father’s gag books and correspondence.

Abbott transcribed the gag book and included it in full in his book, making it not just a trip down memory lane for theatregoers, but also a useful resource for anyone writing pantomimes.

He then spoke to actors who appeared in Marshall’s pantos, who shared their fond memories of their time in Salisbury.

He said: “From 1962 to 1969 I saw everything at the Playhouse, and that made me a theatregoer for life.

“But I particularly enjoyed the pantos and always remembered those.

“I thought they were well worth writing about.”

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