Backdrops in Peter Pan Tiger Lily (Lesley Candy) Smee and Starkey (Steven Combrink and Norman Fullwood) Mermaid (Judith de Beer)


I’ve devoted three blogs to a few incidents in Mom’s first play In Mother Nature’s Garden.  Of course, it and the subsequent more ambitious pantos wouldn’t have been possible without a lot of support backstage. 


Backdrops are an essential part of scene setting.  Slomans Hardware sold everything. “An anchor to a needle” was their motto.  It was the obvious first stop to solicit endless rolls of Hessian and canvas from brothers Mottel and Reuben. They were generous to a fault.  Next came the paints of all sorts which Slomans had in copious supply from white wash to oils.  Then, of course, there were the buckets, wash brushes, scrubbing brushes and paintbrushes of all sizes and shapes procured on successive trips.  Mom wasn’t sure about their supply of anchors but they really were her lifeline supplier.

Fortunately, we had a big garden with big lawns. Here the huge canvases were rolled out and the Brownies set to work: first the whitewash was sloshed on.  Once it dried in the hot summer sun it was time for the basic background color.  Next came the artists chalk sketching out the scene inspired by the large beautifully illustrated children’s books on these stories.   Once Mom approved, Guides painted the bold outlines.  Finally, it was time to bring the scenes to life with depth, light and shadow and artistic know-how.

Every year, Dad noted with annoyance, even in his perpetual haste, that the lawn suffered from backdrops blocking the sun. It was not the only thing that suffered, he thought dryly. He was always relieved to see the posters go up.  The pantomime would soon be over…for this year anyway.

Que Que was a young town with lots of young families.  Dad had lots of practice delivering babies.   He boasted he could predict a woman’s delivery date, to the day, the minute she walked into the consulting room fully clothed.

“Mrs. Candy,” he said, as she walked through the door.  “Your baby’s dropped.  I’m sure you’re glad to hear it.  Expect the happy event any day now!”

“Oh, dear me no!” she said, “Not now!  Surely not?  I still have the finishing touches to put on your wife’s backdrops before the show opens.  I’m still painting on my hands and knees with my big bump.”

“Better hurry up,” he said.  “You’ve no time to loose.  My lawn is suffering.”

As predicted, the baby, a bonny boy, her fourth child, arrived just before the show opened.  Barely home, she rushed off to finish the painting, help with costumes, make-up and all the rest, before the velvet curtain rose.

Mr. Candy was stage manager, her boys Errol and Gregory were pirates and her daughter Lesley was Tiger Lily, in Peter Pan.

The lawn began to recover…till next year.