Shifting Screens: The Child Performer and Her Audience Revisited in the Digital Age
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In January 1970, I began work on a 17-part television series for children. I was 14 years and seven months old and this was not my first professional engagement as a child performer.1 In fact I considered myself to be an experienced jobbing actress who had to fight hard through the many days of large-group auditions and screen tests required by the Anglo/American team of producers for this film series intended for the small screen. I was cast as “Billie,” the capable, motherly but tomboyish girl in a gang of seven children who shared an abandoned London double-decker bus as their gang hut and used the scrapyard it was set in as their playground. Here Come the Double Deckers was first broadcast in the United Kingdom in January 1971, a month after the first screening on ABC in America in September 1970. While some critics thought this hybrid show too mid-Atlantic for wide appeal, children on both sides of the ocean were captivated by the gang’s weekly adventures. We sang and danced our way through attempts to build a hovercraft, create a robot, race go-karts, make a movie, rescue a dog, rescue a one-man band, go camping, and, of course, put on a show. There was rarely a storyline that didn’t involve some kind of disaster that characteristically involved a chase or a slapstick routine, before arriving at a satisfactory and tidy resolution at the end of each 25-minute episode.
KeywordsCultural Significance Entertainment Industry Daily Mail Personal Collection Adult World
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- 6.See Gilli Bush-Bailey, Performing Herself: AutoBiography and Fanny Kelly’s Dramatic Recollections (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011), Introduction, 3–10.Google Scholar
- 10.Anne Varty, Children and Theatre in Victorian Britain: ‘All work, No Play’ (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 10.Google Scholar
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