Company Name: Gay Sweatshop Theatre Company

Jingleball at the ICA
Devised by:
Gerald Chapman and Kate Crutchley
Tom Robinson and Alex Harding
Michael Richmond
Kate Crutchley, Bob Stratton, Julie Parker, Nancy Diuguid, Gordon MacDonald, Drew Griffiths, Helen Barnaby, Sara Hardy
Venue: ICA
Year: 1976

Jingleball at Oval House
Devised by the company
Cast: Drew Griffiths, Gordon MacDonald, Jill Posener, Kate Crutchley, Bob Stratton, Elizabeth Lindsay, Sandra Leicester, Stephanie Pugsley
Alex Harding, Angela Stewart Park
Oval House 

In December 1976, the company celebrated a successful year with their Christmas show Jingleball. Jingleball was a feminist pantomime loosely based on Cinderella. Similar to a traditional panto, the men played the Ugly Sisters and the women played Cinderella and her Prince. The camp tradition was played to full affect, with anti-women and anti-gay jokes as part of the panto banter. Although in this production the Prince was a Princess, the love story was a lesbian romance.

Jingleball was presented at the ICA in 1976 and Jingleball  at Gay Pride Week at the Oval House in August 1978

‘We did Jingleball 1 and Jingleball 2 which was when Gay Sweatshop went off, when the women and the men were off on tour to do Any Woman Can. It left Kate and me and Gerald Chapman back in London with everybody else gone, so we decided that we could do something, and I stupidly decided that they could act it and I could direct it, and learnt that I couldn’t. We got to the opening day and went ‘Oops there’s no set, how did that happen?’ We called it Jingleball 1, that was Jingleball 1, but it was a very experimental piece, it was still on at the ICA. People would come and some people enjoyed it, and we’d got various other writers who’d been involved with Gay Sweatshop before to write some stuff. … We were there holding the fort, people still wanted some identity in the city, a place to come to feel that they could…[have a gay base]. The ICA were very willing to have us on there, I think it was a Lunchtime theatre piece. And then when they came back they decided to have the pantomime and that was Jingleball 2 and that was a big Christmas Pantomime – the Ugly Sisters, Prince Charming, it was the whole thing of gay politics, very camp. Very popular.’ Mary Moore interview

James Helps adds:

‘In 1976 I was a struggling designer who, like Mary Moore, shared an agent in Inga Jones. Inga looked after us as well as lighting designers, including Nick Chelton. In 1976 I was finding work, but also working on the Rocky Horror Show as the board operator and at the ICA as a gallery manager. Inga called me one day as Mary was struggling with Jingleball. It had little going for it in terms of political context other being fun and a celebration of queer, camp and gay.

Mary brought a really strong political feminist and gay insight to her work, but this party piece wasn’t her particular bag.
I was also painting cloths for a panto at Bath Theatre Royal designed by Terry Parsons. It was a mess, several different painters all painting separate cloths from black and white photographs , but there was lots and lots of glitter…

I needed help and Mary and a mutual friend and I were driven down to Bath in the Gay Sweatshop van by Jill Posener. We had a flat on the way and Jill parked up next to another van and while we had a cuppa swapped her flat with their good tyre. We painted all night and in the morning the  Star turn appeared: Mr Frankie Howerd. He looked at the jumble of styles, our team of women and was impressed by neither. We escaped back to London with the liberated glitter, which coated a Christmas tree, a fake proscenium with G and S for Gay Sweatshop and though I hardly designed I was credited in the reviews as co-designer. This shocked my designer colleagues who were surprised as I was known as a straight man. When asked how I got the job as you had to have a serious political attitude and commitment to gay politics. This I had, but I was and remained a straight man. My explanation was that I had access to glitter!- but really I just helped Mary out. She repaid me over and over , firstly getting me resident work at Theatre Clwyd with George Roman and then being head of design for the final season at Ipswich with Angela Hopkins. Sadly Angela was killed in a car accident the following year .

I still design and teach both in schools and at UWE in Bristol. As a teacher in 2000 Tom Robinson was amazingly generous in linking me and my school to Apple Computers, who created a learning centre for the community within the school packed with Apple Technology allowing students to make films and reflect on their own selves within their community.’

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