‘Twinkletoes’ A Christmas Pantomime by The Playhouse Theatre at Changi P.O.W Camp (Dec 1944)


‘There was no quality so touchingly likeable in prisoner of war psychology as the childish capacity of everyone for enjoying pantomimes. Each Christmas, without fail, thousands of haggard, misshapen, disillusioned men went galloping down to the theatre to see the pantomime and , unashamedly, to enjoy it.’

Source: Unknown Author, ‘On with the Motley: The Changi Concert Party’, in Lachlan Grant (ed.), The Changi Book, Published by New South in association with the Australian War Memorial, 2015, pg. 143

Note: Jack Horner is listed in the cast of actors. To see a caricature of him, go to ‘caricatures & portraits’ on this website.

‘Twinkletoes’ was written by POW’s  Keith Stevens and Slim de Grey, who also wrote and produced and number of other programs including ‘Shootin High’, on this website.

“In Changi we slept in a courtyard at the end of which stood a huge building forty feet high which was a stage with a wide proscenium: a courtyard whose space was mostly taken up by seats in the open air made out of coco-nut trees split down their centre and placed flat side upwards. This courtyard was Changi’s theatre – the Playhouse, as it was called.”
“Ronald Searle,& other artists, designed and carried out the sets – décor, I believe, is the word – for many of the Playhouse shows, which ranged from Coward to pantomime and which in quality and production could easily have taken their place in any of London’s West End theatres.”
“Daltry had been a major in an artillery unit. He was well equipped to produce Changi’s entertainment, having in the days before the war run the Westminster Theatre in London. He swooped, therefore, on long crutches upon the Playhouse and, to the astonishment of all, opened its season with Autumn Crocus – a gentle love story which the near – destroyed souls of Thailand and the aerodrome – scorched workers of Changi found thoroughly delightful. Having started his career in Singapore’s sterile gaol by staging a story of love in the cool heights of a mountain, the outrageous Daltry settled down to months of exhilarating production” He is mentioned in this production.”
“Christmas of 1944 came and with it presents and cards and, of course, at the Playhouse, a pantomime,. This pantomime was called Twinkletoes and, like all good pantos, was topical, tuneful, colourful and hilarious.
The script was written by Keith Stevens, better known as a red – headed female with an ample bosom and bawdy tongue, and Slim de Grey. Slim was six foot two inches tall, incredibly lean and had that kind of wide – eyed appeal which in dogs is irresistible. With Ray Tullipan, Slim wrote all the songs (lyrics & tunes) for the panto.
So, the panto went on – a riot of clowning and magical sets by Searle (sets created out of canvas and different coloured muds and crayons) and a fearful hag of a witch who was Daltry, with his one eye and his one leg and a most ungentlemanly screech. But best of all in that panto were the seven or eight new tunes which set Changi by the ears and had us humming happily for months. Even nowadays there are few men who were in that gaol who cannot sing you the words and tune of ‘Castles in the Air’”
Source: The Naked Island by Russell Braddon; 1955 edition Pan Books Ltd, Pg 255, 256, 263, 271

With the fall of Singapore in 1942 jack Boardman was marched to Changi POW Camp where he would remain until the end of the war. He was the pianist, composer and arranger for the Changi Concert Party during three years of his three-and-a-half year imprisonment. The entertainment he provided had a big effect on the moral of his fellow POWs. In February 1945 the Japanese banned further concerts and Jack was sent out to work on the Changi airstrip, the gaol incinerator and other tasks. Jackie Boardman pulled together the musical arrangements in ‘Twnkletoes’, Dec 1944.