Edna & Madge: The inside story of a TV friendship

In real life, Dame Edna's glum companion entertained the troops, brought the can-can to Crystal Palace and turned down all offers of marriage

Today, as the breathless school of showbusiness reporting would put it, the secret life of one of the theatre's most enigmatic legends can be revealed.

Patricia Perry, who played Madge Allsop, dead-pan stooge to superstar Dame Edna Everage, was, in real life, the life and soul of the south London shoe-shuffling set. In Crystal Palace, they still talk of her can-can.

Perry, who died at the age of 100 on Tuesday and who acted under her middle name of Emily, loved the stage from her earliest years, but had a performing career that was oddly intermittent until she found fame in her 80s. On the boards at four, dancing and singing in the West End in her youthful prime, and trouping for the entertainments organisation Ensa during the Second World War, Perry gave up her career to care for her mother. She then founded her own dancing school.

Wendy Bacon met Perry when she enrolled her young daughter at the Patricia Perry Academy of Dancing in Crystal Palace. They formed a friendship spanning nearly 40 years.

In 1970, Mrs Bacon said, Perry asked the mothers to attend a meeting ahead of the school's annual show: "She told us they were going to perform the can-can and she wanted us to sew different coloured dresses and put the children in black stockings, suspenders, hats and frills."

Perry's focus in life was acting and dancing, and she had little time for any other interests aside from her support for animal charities and her poodle, Star.

"She had several opportunities to marry, but she never wanted to because she hated housework and couldn't bear to run a house," Mrs Bacon said.

Then, in 1987, came fame. "She stopped to talk to me in the street one day and said, 'I was auditioning for a part with Barry Humphries today and I think I got it'," Mrs Bacon recalled.

Humphries paid Perry a warm tribute this week. "She was the most amusing company – a very intelligent and interesting woman. I'm saddened to hear of her passing. She is absolutely irreplaceable," he told the BBC.

Humphries and Perry toured America, New Zealand and Australia together. When they performed at the Haymarket Theatre in London, Mrs Bacon said: "Barry gave her the number one dressing room. She didn't realise how famous she was, but she would have been tickled pink by all the obituaries."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Web Developer - ASP.NET, C#, MVC - London

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Web Developer -...

Ashdown Group: .NET Developer : ASP.NET , C# , MVC , web development

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits - see advert: Ashdown Group: .N...

Guru Careers: 3D Package Designer / 3D Designer

£25 - 30K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an exceptional 3D Package Designer / 3...

Guru Careers: Interior Designer

£Competitive: Guru Careers: We are seeking a strong Middleweight / Senior Inte...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss