THE MAGIC CIRCLE CLUB:













Another memory from the recesses of my mind, at dinner on Tuesday night we got to talking about Adventure Island and The Magic Circle Club.

Thanks to “Have phaser, will travel” for the images.

The Magic Circle Club was a childrens show produced at the ATV0 studios in the 60’s.

Bobby & Laurie was Twoddle & Boddle in The Magic Circle Club.

Living in the Magic Forest were…. Nancy Cato, Fredd & Feefee Bear, Twoddle & Boddle, Marlena DeWitch, Max, Mother Hubbard, Cassius Cuckoo, Leonardo De Funbird.Liz (Liz Harris), Sir Jasper Crookly, Bo Bo the Clown, Hep Cat.

Also Featuring: Max Bartlett, Bunny Brooke, Ernie Bourne, Colin McEwan, Fred Tupper, and John Howson.

The Magic Circle Club was a children’s television show, which aired in Australia on ATV Channel 0 (now ATV-10), from 23 January 1965 to 1967. There were 550 thirty minute episodes. Its roots were those of live pantomime and classic fairy tales, and the show often featured music, original songs and dance routines. Some older female characters were performed by males, in pantomime dame style. Godfrey Philipp was the producer and director, with many scripts and song lyrics by John-Michael Howson. Max Bartlett became a regular script writer in addition to his on-screen roles. Music was by Bruce Rowland and scenery designs by Brian Thomson.

Characters were denizens of the Magic Forest: Fredd Bear (Tedd Dunn, also the costume designer); Fee Fee Bear (John-Michael Howson, billed as John Howson); Mother Matilda Hubbard (Fred Tupper); Max (Max Bartlett); a young Shirley Temple analog, Curley Dimples (Gael Dixon, also the show’s choreographer); enchantress Crystal Ball (Gabrielle Hartley) and her pet, Hep Cat (Nola Finn); Marlena DeWitch (Marion Weir); and villainous Sir Jasper Crookly (Ernie Bourne) and his henchman Gaspar Goblin (Colin McEwan). The show was hosted by Nancy Cato, cousin of author Nancy Cato. A later addition to the cast was Liz (Liz Harris), who also took over as hostess when Nancy Cato suffered temporary paralysis and was confined to a wheelchair.

Episodes were serialized across five days, with the Friday program usually wrapping up the week’s storyline. Each episode finished up with the hostess sitting on a large mushroom, with Fredd crouched beside her (usually after dusting off the stool with a handkerchief), while the pair shared viewers’ letters and artwork. Another regular feature included viewers’ riddles with Cassius Cuckoo, during “Cassius Cuckoo’s Corn Corner”, and limericks with Leonardo de Funbird. These characters were wood and felt bird puppets (created by Axel Axelrad; voiced by Colin McEwan). Cassius inhabited a longcase cuckoo clock next to Mother Hubbard’s cupboard in The Magic Cottage, and Leonardo lived inside the IKAN (Instantaneous Knowledge Accumulation Network) computer.

Recurring guest characters included BoBo the clown, Montmorency James Rabbit, Sebastian Bear, and Aunty Vale (Bunney Brooke). Twoddle & Boddle (Laurie Allen and Bobby Bright, aka Bobby & Laurie of The Go!! Show) were analogs of Tweedledee & Tweedledum, characters the pair had played previously in a pantomime. Max Bartlett often played additional guest characters, including King Size of nearby Enchantmentland, wicked innkeeper Simon Sneak, of the Cross and Bones, or Mother Hubbard’s accident-prone great-nephew, Claude Clumsy. Ernie Bourne and Colin McEwan often doubled up roles to play guest villains. Even Nancy Cato played a chambermaid, Sweet Nelly, in a Barbary Coast pirate storyline.

A specially written Magic Circle Club episode, “The Stolen Smile”, was performed live on stage at the Tivoli Theatre (Melbourne) from December 27, 1965. In this adventure, Sir Jasper and Gaspar had banished Clocko the chief clown (Max Bartlett, again playing a dual role), and Spangles the trapeze artist (Gael Dixon), from their circus, and taken away Clocko’s smile. Appearing on stage with Max, Curley and Nancy were Fredd, Fee Fee, Mother Hubbard, Crystal, Hep Cat, Montmorency, Cassius and Leonardo, all played by the regular TV cast. This production was stage managed by Sue Nattras, Simon Wincer and Jim McElroy.[1]

The TV series won the first Logie Award presented to a children’s show. When ATV axed the show for cost reasons, ABC TV wanted to buy it, but ATV refused. This led to the start up of the program Adventure Island on the ABC, with some of the cast and writers from the Magic Circle Club.

TV director and costume designer Tedd Dunn stayed with Channel 0. He played the Fredd Bear character (Channel 0’s answer to the Nine Network’s more enduring Humphrey B. Bear) two years after the Magic Circle Club’s demise, as co-host of Fredd Bear’s Breakfast-A-Go-Go.

5 Responses to “”

  1. cierwen says:

    Hip hooray and hello,
    It’s time to start our show…

  2. Therin of Andor says:

    Hi Tammy,

    That was a bit of deja vu. Pics from my Flickr account and text from the program I bought on eBay and via the Wikipedia article I worked on. Surely a few hyperlinks and references would be nice?

    I was hoping to read some of your memories, as discussed at dinner, mentioned all too briefly at the start of your blog entry.

    I interviewed Max Bartlett on Wednesday in his Melbourne home. What a great guy!

    Regards, Ian

  3. Tammy says:

    Link added, thanks for great info,

    Greg.

  4. Therin of Andor says:

    Many thanks!

    More to come very soon.

  5. Kelly says:

    Gael Dixon…now Gael Andrews who played Curley Dimples is my beautiful mum. If anyone has more footage or photos of mum I would appreciate so much as she now has a rare brain disease sapping her painfully of all forms of communication. Please get in touch with me if you have any information.
    Thanks very much πŸ’πŸ™πŸ»

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