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Preview: Dolly Mixtures at South Shields Customs House

The Women Who Inspired The Dolly Mixtures Looking Forward To Play’s Revival

The Dolly Mixtures
South Shields Customs House
Wednesday 21 - Saturday 31 August 2019

The original ‘Dolly Mixtures’ are looking forward to seeing the smash-hit play based on their hilarious fundraising antics return to the stage. The Dolly Mixtures is being revived as part of The Customs House’s 25th anniversary celebrations and will run from Wednesday 21 to Saturday 31 August.

The Dolly Mixtures, written by Tom Kelly, with music by John Miles, debuted at The Customs House in August 2016, receiving a rapturous reception and widespread critical acclaim.

The original Dolly Mixtures: (l-r) Betty Dickinson, Hilda Joyce, 
Doris Ashcroft and Margaret Fleck with playwright Tom Kelly.
It tells the story of eight ordinary women from the north east, who broke the showbiz mould to raise money for Cancer Research UK in the 1970s and 1980s.  They toured the region’s male-dominated social clubs with their variety show for over 14 years, raising laughs and £100,000 in the process.

Five of the original women remain – Doris Ashcroft, 79, Margaret Fleck, 77, Hilda Joyce, 84, Betty Dickinson, 74, and Sylvia Nichols, 72. The others – Jean Smith, Joan Lumsdale and Liz Errington – sadly died before their remarkable story was turned into a musical.

Betty said: “I think we were all hoping that it would be brought back.”
Margaret added: “It’s testament to how good it was first time around. It was joyous and amazing. We always thought it was, but the fact it is coming back proves it really.  The first time round we were excited, but apprehensive.”
The women were inspired to raise money for cancer research after Margaret’s husband and Hilda’s brother, Ken, died from bowel cancer, aged just 34.

Hilda said: “We were determined to raise as much money as possible for cancer research and that is what kept us going.” Doris added: “It’s amazing when you think about how much energy we must have had then compared to how we feel now!”

The women juggled their commitments as The Dolly Mixtures with work and family life. The show is littered with anecdotes and skits based on real-life events and the challenges the group came up against.

Doris said: “Every scenario in the play is true. We had some amazing times.”
They made their own costumes, created their own props, sourced their own music, arranged their own transport and organised bookings themselves. Betty said: “We were the only female group on the circuit and we were viewed with suspicion when we walked in, but by the end of the night we had standing ovations. We only ever walked out of one club.”

The women are looking forward to once again working with West End star Mina Anwar, who will direct and choreograph the latest production, having been assistant director and choreographer during the original run.

Six members of the original cast are also returning – Georgia Nicholson will play Doris, Victoria Holtom will play Sylvia, Kylie Ann Ford will play Liz, Christina Dawson will play Joan, Sarah Boulter will play Margaret and Patricia Whale will play Jean.  The new faces are Natasha Haws as Hilda, Zoe Hakin as Betty and Steven Lee Hamilton as Ken.

The cast: Top L-R: Christina Dawson, Natasha Haws and Zoe Hakin;
Middle L-R: Sarah Boulter, Victoria Holtom and Steven Lee Hamilton;
Bottom L-R: Patricia Whale, Georgia Nicholson and Kylie Ann Ford.

Bucket collections will be held after each performance to raise money for Cancer Research UK. Hilda said: “I hope everyone comes to see the show and supports the show because it will all help cancer research. That is what we have worked for all our lives.” During the original production, Cancer Research UK presented The Dolly Mixtures with a Lifetime Achievement Award on stage.

Tickets for The Dolly Mixtures are priced from £16 and performances start at 7.30pm, with a 2.30pm matinee on Thursday 22, Saturday 24, Thursday 29 and Saturday 31 August.
Contact the box office on (0191) 454 1234 or visit

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