More About The Arcadia Llandudno

After writing about Llandudno’s erstwhile Arcadia Theatre, I was struck by how difficult it is to recapture the atmosphere of the place and the times. Now it is time to try a little harder.

We cannot hope to regain the feeling and sights of our favourite watering places now. They have all changed beyond recognition. Our own aspirations have changed as well and we generally seem to be more demanding. Perhaps I am mistaken in this although I did thank my father many years later for all the lovely holidays we had enjoyed. He made to apologise, saying that “we weren’t very ambitious” and that made me sad. I wanted to reassure him that he could not have chosen better and he seemed genuinely pleased as he looked at me.

With that in mind, I have hunted high and low until I found a programme from the “Catlin Follies” from Coronation Year 1953. Here it is. I can also try and find out what became of the artistes. But before we go further, here also is a review from “The Stage” of this very show – from the week of July 9 1953.

The Stage – Thursday 9 July 1953
Catlin’s at Llandudno
Will Catlin, for Catlin’s Productions, Ltd., is again presenting “Catlin Follies,” at Arcadia, Llandudno, and the show is proving as successful as its predecessors. Several favourites from last year’s cast have been retained, among them Mary Redfern, who delights with her soprano songs, Stanley Massey, a new comedian, who made a big success last year, the Five Skyliners, the popular vocal harmony group, and Max and Maisie Norris, who always have something fresh to offer. The newcomers have quickly registered in local favour, and Syd and Paul Kaye bring laughter with their modern style of comedy. Rex and Irene Gray present varied dance routines, and Leslie Roberts’s Six Television Girls provide novel dance routines. Paul Raymond is again musical director, Dorothy James presides at the other piano, and Teddy Horsman is on the drums. Max Norris’s production runs with smoothness and style and the decor is among the most lavish ever seen at Arcadia.

One other thing I did learn – Will Catlin died at the age of 82 in 1953 in Llandudno. Here is a link to his grave at Llandrillo, just a few miles from Llandudno itself.

Seaside shows were a big part of our holidays. I am sorry that I cannot reproduce for you the actual programme but here is the content. I think that at one time, more or less every tram on the old Llandudno and Colwyn Bay Electric Railway carried an advertisement for them. Ah! could I but have one wish…

Will Catlin presents the FAMOUS
Devised and Produced by Max Norris
Catlin Follies Programme No 3 1953, Arcadia Llandudno
1. “Ring The Bells” – A coronation year greeting from the Follies
2. Introducing Stanley Massey – who has a word or two to say to the girls
3. The Melody Men – singing about their favourite girlfriend
4. Irene Gray and The Six Television Girls – Gaiety, with Glamour
5. The Disillusioned Lover – Stanley Massey and Maisie Norris, with Clover, Gillian, Marcia, Ali, Syd and George
6. A Flight of Fancy – From the Embankment, to the land of the Shamrock. A production Scene, with Mary Redfern, Ali Arlesovita and full company
7. “Steamer Breakfast” – A slight argument on the Isle of Man packet
Percy Blandworthy – Max Norris, Ada Blandworthy – Mary Redfern
Mabel Higgins – Maisie Norris, Steward – Syd Kaye
Herbert Higgins – Stanley Massey
8. Rex & Irene Gray – Dancers, ornamental and accidental
9. Mary Redfern – Singing the songs you love to hear
10. The Difference
with  Irene Gray, Maisie Norris, Mary Redfern, Max Norris and Stanley Massey. Scene: The Hat Shop
11. Leslie Roberts, Six Television Girls – in a surprising dance novelty
12. What’s My Line? – (Wilcox & Rutherford), The Follies present their own version of the popular Television game


13. Paul Raymond & Dorothy Jones
on two piano’s with Teddy Horsman at the drums
14. Round About Trafalgar Square
The full company in a musical-comedy melange
15. Max & Maisie Norris – “Dignity and Impudence”
16. Stanley Massey – Dumb but funny
17. Settling for Romance – A Production Scene of melody and glamour with vocals by Mary Redfern and the 5 Skyliners, and dancing by Rex & Irene Gray
18. More Glamour – “Miss Llandudno”, “Miss Colwyn”, “Miss Rhyl”
19. Syd and Paul Kaye – Nit-wits in quick-wits
20. The Five Skyliners
The Continental maestro’s of instrumental and vocal harmony
21. Dick Barton, Special Agent – By Request,
The Producer – Max Norris
The leading lady – Maisie Norris
The twerp – Stanley Massey
22. Goodbye Now – The Follies wish you “Goodnight”

Looking for the artistes is quite difficult at this distance. However, here are some links. Some of those involved in the Catlin Follies were stars from ENSA – the World War II entertainments organisation. For example, Max and Maisie Norris who get a brief mention here and again here.

Syd and Paul Kaye went on to work in the 1960s and their work with Tommy Steele finds a little mention here.

Mary Redfern was a popular singer in wartime and some of her recordings are in the Imperial War Museum here.

Leslie Roberts (1908-1996) Dancer and Choreographer here and here

Teddy Horsman – Magician – here (Teddy will be playing the drums because this programme is “number 3” which means that he is only required to do a couple of scenes as the programme changes nightly, with artistes and their material used in rotation)

Stanley Massey – here and here

Rex and Irene Gray danced and may have been brother and sister. They were working with Syd and Paul Kaye in the Glasgow Empire in 1954 (scroll down when you have made the link active) here.

However, I also found an obituary for a Rex Gray (1926-1999) who became a teacher and ultimately, Director of Music and I wonder given the content, if this is not one and the same person. It seems that for some of us, the end of a rainbow may not always conceal a pot of gold. Even if this is not the same Rex Gray, this is still worth reading. Read the obituary for Rex Gray.


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