Kenneth Alan Taylor has been entertaining audiences in dazzling dresses for over thirty years. This week he will step out onto the Nottingham Playhouse’s main stage, dressed to the nines at Dame Daisy, ready to perform his thirtieth, and final, panto: Jack and the Beanstalk. ending a year of celebration for the Playhouse’s 50th birthday, the winter panto promises to be glittering, glamorous event for all audiences young and old. Here Kenneth tells Impact Arts about a life within the petticoats:
Kenneth: “The first panto I saw was when I was seven and the Dame was Arthur Askey. He was a huge star at the time, this was during the war. The Second World War I might add. He was on the front of a comic called Radio Fun and I was a fan of his. As Dame he was terrific and one of the best. From then on I was hooked on panto.
Panto survives, I think, because good panto is for all the family and so audiences feel safe no matter how young or old they are. They love the familiarity of the stories and the old and much loved jokes and routines.
I did my first pantomime in 1959 at the Oldham Coliseum. I played a Buttons type character the next year I played an Ugly Sister and from then on I never wanted to play any other character in panto except Dame. After playing an Ugly Sister I was given my first Solo Dame and realised the freedom the Dame has. A Dame can ad lib and be anarchic.
The most spectacular costume I wore was in our 2004 production of Sleeping Beauty, designed by Terry Parsons it was my costume for the finale and based on an iconic dress worn by Marlene Dietrich in her stage shows and had a 20 foot train But this year I have two spectacular costumes designed by Tim Meacock with two amazing hats
A Dame should basically be “ A bloke in a Dress”. One should use one’s own personality and be able to ad lib.
My Dame is always the same whether it’s Mother Goose or this year Dame Daisy, I based my first Dame on Northern women I knew and loved in Oldham, where I first appeared as Dame. I like to think there is a touch of Thora Hird, one of my idols but she was a better actress than me! My rehearsal technique is to learn the lines before I start rehearsing and basically to have fun.
After ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ is over, I will have mixed feelings; relief at not doing twelve shows a week, but I will miss my fellow actors and of course the audiences.”
Jack and the Beanstalk opens at the Nottingham Playhouse Friday 29th November
Questions by Eve Wersocki Morris