Directors of theatre productions have enough trouble getting human actors and actresses in the right place at the right time on stage.

Just imagine the challenges they face when they have animals to contend with as well.

Dougal and Freddy, two Shetland ponies, joined the cast of Cinderella, the pantomime at the Oxford Playhouse in 1973.

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From the picture above, it looks as if theatre staff needed two traffic wardens to help keep them in order!

In fact, they just happened to be passing and were impressed how well the new arrivals behaved.

The ponies were due to pull Cinderella’s coach at every performance for six weeks – and owner John Holmes, of Dorset, was confident they would do well.

He told the Oxford Mail at the time: “They do it every year. I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t know more about the show than some of the people appearing in it.”

Barbara Cordwell, their groom, in the centre of the picture, confessed she was feeling a little nervous.

Although she had looked after every kind of horse in her time from polo ponies to show-jumpers, she had never handled pantomime ponies before.

The ponies were pictured beside their impressive carriage by Oxford Mail photographer Athar Chaudhry as they arrived at the old fire station in Gloucester Green.

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Oxford Playhouse was built as a repertory theatre in 1938; the last new theatre to be constructed before the war.

Perhaps the most famous production in the theatre’s history was an Oxford University Dramatic Society’s Dr Faustus in 1966, starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

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About the author 

Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. 

He joined the team more than 20 years ago and he covers community news across Oxfordshire.

His Trade and Tourism newsletter is released every Saturday morning. 

You can also read his weekly Traffic and Transport newsletter.