Barbara Newman as 'Priscilla' the Goose
with John Inman as Mother Goose
1981 - Victoria Palace
Barbara Newman (April 11th 1914 - May 4th 2002)
'The Best Goose in the Business'
Barbara Newman variety artiste,
best known as “Priscilla” the pantomime goose passed away today at a
nursing home in
We reproduce her obituary taken from The
variety performer who found fame in pantomime as “the best goose in the
variety artiste Barbara Newman was known for most of her career as “the
best goose in the business”. A diminutive figure, she specialised in
playing the part of Priscilla, the goose who plays a central role in the
pantomime Mother Goose.
She made the part her own, slipping easily into the
lower part of the 6’ feathered costume, and with her quirky bird like
movements created a totally believable character. Her first entrance, as she
peered round the stage curtains, drew rounds of applause from the audience.
The costume itself was extremely heavy, and she had
no option but to waddle around the stage- evoking either sympathy or
laughter, depending on the scene. The bird’s eyes (controlled from inside)
were particularly expressive and she managed to upstage many a fellow
She was paired in her career with some of the great
pantomime dames of the era, notably John Inman (best known as Mr Humphries
in are you being served?) with whom she worked in 12 shows. Newman
always took the role seriously and even in the finale refused to remove the
costume, insisting that Priscilla walk on in a glittering cloak with a crown
on her head. “I would never break the spell” she once remarked.
During the Second World War she was a light
comedienne in Tommy Trinder’s Concert Party in
By the 1970’s she was widely acclaimed as “the
best goose in the business” (the phrase often being used in her billing
material) and was appearing in productions of Mother Goose opposite
comedians such as Ken Dodd, Billy Whittaker, Billy Dainty and Roy Hudd.
It was, however her teaming with John Inman in 1976
that proved to be the most felicitous of her career. The two had a natural
empathy on stage, and their comic repartee was superbly timed. Inman
commented “When you saw the costume in the dressing room it was simply a
dead object. When Barbara wore it she made it come to life”. Offstage the
two became close friends.
By the late 1980’s, years of performing as
Priscilla had taken their toll on Newman and she was suffering ill health.
She retired from the stage, but she was a familiar figure and cheery face at
many showbusiness functions, where she was affectionately called “The
Her last years were spent in a nursing home in
Surrey, where she was often visited by fellow pantomime performers, and
every year on her birthday she was taken by friends to a luncheon in a hotel
on the Strand. Bent over almost double, beady-eyed and with a mischievous
sense of humour, she was, as her many admirers remarked, rather like
She is survived by her brother Peter.
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