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Cissie and Ada

Cissie and Ada, in full Cissie Braithwaite and Ada Shufflebotham or Sidebottom[1] are two housewives from Northern England (or, more specifically, Lancashire) created and played by the comedian Les Dawson and the comic actor Roy Barraclough on television in the 1970s and 1980s. With a love of gossip, stoical pursing of lips and constantly heaved bosoms, Cissie and Ada became a hit with the British public.[2][3][4][5][6][7] Dawson explained that this mouthing of words (or "mee-mawing") was a habit of Lancashire millworkers trying to communicate over the tremendous racket of the looms, and then resorted to in daily life for delicate subjects.

Cissie and Ada
Cissie and Ada.jpg
The characters as seen during the 1984 adverts for fresh cream cakes.
Created by Les Dawson and Roy Barraclough
Portrayed by Roy Barraclough and Les Dawson respectively
Aliases Cissie Braithwaite and Ada Shufflebotham
Cissie Braithewaite and Ada Sidebottom
Gender Female
Nationality British

The pair created the characters in rehearsals, in homage to the music hall star Norman Evans,[citation needed] before being persuaded by the producer to use them in sketches in the show Sez Les. Although Dawson needed persuading to don drag, and Barraclough was nervous that he would not be able to match Dawson's talent for ad-libbing, the characters became permanent features of the show.[8]

The characters were revisited by the pair in a series of commercials for fresh cream cakes in 1984.[9]

In 2006, Sir Ian McKellen, writing in The Independent, named them the tenth best drag act ever created, commenting that they "were as real as the crones in the Rover's Return".[10] Barraclough recalled that his characterisation of Cissie "was drawn from an aunt of mine who always thought she was slightly above the rest of the family, Auntie Annie. You know, she would always have a sherry. And the rest of the family always took the piss out of her."[8] Key to Dawson's portrayal of Ada was a handbag "tightly clutched to the waist in a manner suggesting infinite disapproval".[11]

A planned Christmas special and a series to follow were both cancelled because of Les Dawson's death in 1993.[12] Barraclough declared that "it's rewarding to see Cissie and Ada have passed into comedy legend".[12]

Stage showEdit

A new play written by Graham Warrener, (incorporating Cissie and Ada original sketches from Dawson's BBC days, written by Terry Ravenscroft), and directed by JJ (John-Jackson) Almond, Cissie And Ada: An Hysterical Rectomy,[13] began a UK tour at the Grand Theatre, Blackpool on 15 July 2013, in Les Dawson's hometown. The show starred Eric Potts as Ada/Les, Steve Nallon as Cissie/Roy, Steven Arnold as the writer and Natasha Magigi as the dresser.[14]


  1. ^ Ada's surname is recorded both as Sidebottom and as Shufflebotham in various sources. The Guardian records it as Shufflebotham in "The Guide: Hard as Males" (9 August 2008, p. 8) as does The Daily Mirror in "Football: It's Time for Liverpool and Chelsea to ... Show Some Dignity" (20 April 2008, p. 55). However, both The Sun, in "It's Diva Les Vegas" (20 March 2008, p. 25) and The Independent, in "The Ten Best Drag Acts" (27 June 2006, p. 24) use Sidebottom.
  2. ^ Marion McMullen. "Go! Theatre: It's Alec Girl-Roy", Evening Telegraph (Coventry), 26 October 2001. p. 33
  3. ^ David Hopps. "Cricket: Second Division: Resigned to Chilton Hundred: Lancashire 379 & 291-5 Yorkshire 335", The Guardian, 11 June 2005. p. 17
  4. ^ "Hooray for Hollywood", Burnley Express, 6 October 2005.
  5. ^ Craig Brown. "Sons, Lovers and Mothers-in-Law", The Daily Telegraph (London), 11 February 2006. p. 25. Many of the scripts were written by Terry Ravenscroft. "I always find Dawson's portrait of the two gossiping Lancashire women Cissie and Ada far more observant than any of the creations of D.H. Lawrence, especially when the two women start mouthing silently to each other about such unmentionable matters as sex or illness."
  6. ^ "Statue Appeal for Comedian Dawson". 2007-03-05. Retrieved 2008-10-07. 
  7. ^ Matthew, Henry Colin Gray; Brian Howard Harrison & British Academy. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004), Oxford University Press. p. 565. ISBN 0-19-861411-X
  8. ^ a b Andrew Billen. "Race to Get Laid, and Then You Die". The Guardian, 22 May 1994.
  9. ^ "A Real Mouthful for Les", Sunday Mirror, 17 June 1984.
  10. ^ Ian McKellen. "The Ten Best Drag Acts". The Independent, 27 June 2006. p. 24.
  11. ^ Ian Herbert North. "Cooper's Fez Fetches Five Times Reserve Price at Auction 'Just Like That'". The Independent, 28 September 2005. p. 18
  12. ^ a b John Peake. "I'm Such a Smart Alec". The Sun, 10 February 2001. p. 17.
  13. ^ [1] Archived 7 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ Stephenson, John-Paul (12 September 2013). "Interview: Steve Nallon #1 – "A Celebration of Les"". Giggle Beats. Retrieved 12 September 2013.