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An evening with Kenneth Alan Taylor

Kenneth Alan Taylor- one-man show
Kenneth Alan Taylor: one-man show

From a fit-up company in Aberdeenshire when he was 18 to panto experience few can equal, artistic director roles in Oldham and Nottingham, Coronation Street and much else besides, Oldham-dwelling, award-winning actor, writer and director Kenneth Alan Taylor is one of few performers in the region who can truly say he has lived through the worst and best of 68 years of British theatre.

Now in his 86th year – and so popular for his Nottingham pantomimes, that the city's bus company named a bus after him in 2019 to mark his 35th record-breaking Christmas at the Playhouse – Kenneth has a huge stock of memories and anecdotes, some of which he will relate next month.

You can spend An Evening with Kenneth Alan Taylor at the small Playhouse 2 in Shaw – not far from the Oldham in which he spent much of his middle career - on October 21 (8pm).

Kenneth last did a one-man show in March, in Oldham, the night before his beloved Oldham Coliseum was closed, "but that was mainly about the Coliseum," he said, and joked: "This time it's all about me, and who doesn't love talking about themselves?

"Seriously though, since the show in March, people have often asked about the rest of my career, in Nottingham, in panto generally and all the other stuff I've done over the years, so I thought, why not? And the Shaw playhouse is a lovely little theatre, with 130 seats or so; perfect for an evening like this."

The closure of the venerable Coliseum, which Kenneth joined in the 1950s and ran through a very successful period from the 1970s, then again a decade or more later – still rankles, but Kenneth is sanguine: he's experienced a lot of changes in a long career.

"How and why the closure came about is shrouded in mystery and very sad, but it all came across as a really shabby way to end such a great little theatre - a place I had so many happy memories," he said.

Among the memories is how he found out he was the father of a baby girl - his daughter Jessica, now in her fifties and an award-winning theatre and TV make-up designer and producer.

"Judith [Kenneth's wife, actress Judith Barker] went into labour but I was due on stage in panto as Widow Twankey.

"I took her to the hospital, called before I went on, called again at the interval, but no child had arrived. I was tearing my wig out and went on stage again. Half-way through the second act, actor Freddie Lees, who was playing Wishee-Washee, came on stage unannounced with this bundle of washing in his arms, opened it up to present a doll and told everyone, including me, that I had a daughter!

"Theatre was like that through much of my career: we cared about the final product, of course, but we worked hard and we had fun. It's a different world now; everything is so much more serious."

More info and tickets here


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