Before his fundraiser event at Lakeside Arts on Friday 10 February, Kenneth Alan Taylor sits down with LeftLion...
Kenneth Alan Taylor’s contributions to theatre are monumental. After bringing pantomime to Nottingham, writing, directing, managing and even starring as the Dame at the Nottingham Playhouse for thirty years, he was deservedly awarded a BEM in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2021.
This February he is at the Djanogly Theatre, Lakeside Arts, for an evening filled with entertaining anecdotes from Kenneth, in conversation with the former controller for BBC Radio 1, Matthew Bannister. The evening’s profits will all go to charity, with the amount raised to be matched by an anonymous donor if it reaches £6,000. We chat to Kenneth to find out more about his career, and what we can expect from the fundraiser...
What’s your most enduring memory of performing as a pantomime Dame at Nottingham Playhouse?
The very first performance of a pantomime at the Nottingham Playhouse, which I introduced here, was Jack and the Beanstalk. We were all off-stage and the fairy conjured up the beanstalk. It started to grow and, about halfway up, the wire that was pulling it up snapped. It fell to the ground and so we adlibbed, we just had to carry on.
At the end of the act, Jack climbs the beanstalk. I’m standing there on stage thinking what is she going to do? The actress climbed over this tiny little fence, put the beanstalk over her shoulder and climbed the hidden ladder!
So many people asked me if it was deliberate and said to keep it in, but you can’t keep a thing in like that. I remember that well, obviously because I was nervous, it was the first time we were doing a pantomime.
Why the Dame in pantomime?
Because she’s the best part! No, before I came to Nottingham I played the Buttons character and then I was given an ugly sister role. From then on, I never wanted to play anything else. She probably has more chance to be naughty with an audience. Of course, writing it myself, I could write myself a good part.
Due to the war, my father went into the army and my mother brought me up for five years. From the age of about four or five, she took me to the theatre once a week and I saw everything – opera, ballet, comedians, plays, the lot
You were awarded a BEM for your exceptional services to theatre. Is this a career highlight?
Yes! I mean, I just couldn’t believe it. During COVID, I got an email and I just thought it was scam. But it did come off, it was for real, which I was very honoured to receive.
I am also thrilled that I have a bus named after me in Nottingham. Not many people can say they’ve got a bus named after them!
What can people expect when attending your upcoming fundraiser?
I hope for an evening of fun and good anecdotes. I’ve been around a long time, and I’ve worked with a lot of people - some famous, some not so famous, some nice and some not so nice. So it should be an interesting evening which will raise money for this fantastic charity.
The money raised from the fundraiser will go towards providing free tickets to families who may not otherwise be able to enjoy live theatre. How important is live theatre to families?
I remember seeing my first pantomime and loving it. I was hooked on theatre ever since. Due to the war, my father went into the army and my mother brought me up for five years. From the age of about four or five, she took me to the theatre once a week and I saw everything – opera, ballet, comedians, plays, the lot. It’s what hooked me on theatre. I think it’s vital.
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