Gus McNaughton and Portsmouth pantomime cast play.

Gus McNaughton Pantomime
Helen Charles kicks off for Cast of Dick Whittington v Portsmouth Police, Fratton Park, January 1914.

In the New Year of 1914 Fred and Gus McNaughton were starring in Dick Whittington and his Cat at the Theatre Royal, Portsmouth. Pantomime usually enjoyed long runs of two or three months so the artists would often need to find themselves something to do between performances. This could mean drinking yourself stupid in the local pubs and clubs or getting involved in sport or charity. These often went hand in hand. One-off sports fixtures were opportunities for raising money and made good PR.  Gus and others in the cast were keen amateur footballers so getting involved in local soccer was a natural choice.

The Dick Whittington and his Cat panto was well received. The Portsmouth Evening News for Saturday 10 Jan 1914 said:

‘The success which attended the opening performances of the rollicking pantomime Dick Whittington and his Cat at the Portsmouth Theatre Royal has been maintained this week and the large audiences have been most appreciative. The production is artistic, tuneful and witty and the various clever vaudeville acts, introduced by Fred and Gus McNaughton, who are in the front rank of laughter raisers, supply a pleasing connecting link between the many ear-haunting melodies and catchy choruses of the action of the story.’

Dick Whittington wasn’t the only show in town that year. The King’s Theatre in Southsea was hosting a revue called Step This Way. Naturally, there was some friendly rivalry between the companies of the two productions. The rivalry manifested itself in a sporting promotional opportunity as the Evening News reported on Friday 9 January 1914.

Portsmouth Pantomimists Win

‘A very interesting football match was played at Stamshaw this afternoon between teams selected from the Dick Whittington Pantomime company at the Theatre Royal and the Step This Way revue company from the King’s. Charlie Davis scored two goals for the Royal Party and he, Gus McNaughton and Bruce Green played really well. Dix was the scorer for the King’s company. Result 2-1.’

A couple of weeks later the Dick Whittington company took to the pitch again. The Evening News of Saturday 17 January 1914 announced that ‘A charity football match Dick Whittington Company vs. Portsmouth Police will be played at Fratton Park on Tuesday, in aid of Portsmouth Hospital and Joe Elvin’s Convalescent Home. Miss Helen Charles, Dick Whittington, will kick off at 2.30.’

Portsmouth Police won the game and were presented with a silver loving cup by Helen Charles at that evening’s performance at the Theatre Royal. The Police team and the Portsmouth team were the guests of the management. The Evening News reported that the hospital and the convalescent home ‘will each benefit to the extent of a “fiver”’.

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