Nottingham Playhouse’s annual pantomime tradition was launched by Kenneth Alan Taylor, when he became the theatre’s Artistic Director in 1984, a post he held for seven years.
It all began with the panto Jack and the Beanstalk, although it nearly didn’t begin at all. On the very first night of the show the beanstalk broke and Jack remained earthbound for eight long minutes while Kenneth ad-libbed and the stage crew tried to persuade the stalk to sprout. Thankfully though, there was eventually a happy ending and since then the Nottingham Playhouse panto has continued to go from strength to strength. It has now become known nationwide as one of the very best surviving examples of the traditional family pantomime.
– Kenneth Alan Taylor
“When I said to Judith; I’m going to appear in pantomime, because I’d been in the panto in Oldham for many years, she said, “You can’t. You’re at Nottingham Playhouse. They don’t want to see you dressed up as a woman at Nottingham Playhouse. It’s a posh theatre.” I went to the new Chairman, David Edmunds, and asked him whether he thought it was wrong to be Dame and he said he didn’t see why and told me to do it…I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous in my life because they’d only done one pantomime when John Neville was here which I gather was a bit of an “end of term” thing, but we did it. We broke even just about… And after the pantomime had finished, David Edmunds and I got a phone call from the leader of the Labour group, Betty Higgins, and she asked me to meet with her in the Council House with Barry Stead who ran the Theatre Royal…she said, “You can’t do another pantomime.” And I said, “Why not?” and she said, “We fund you and the Theatre Royal and Barry does pantomimes and its competition.” I said, “Well, I’m sorry but I don’t think it’s in your remit to give me the policy of the theatre.” “But we fund you,” she said, “you mustn’t do another pantomime, it’s unfair…” “OK,” I said, “I won’t do another pantomime…” “There you are Barry, he’s being reasonable.” I said, “No, I haven’t finished. As long as Barry doesn’t do plays, because plays tour which I can’t do. We’re always losing plays because they’re coming to the Theatre Royal. So I’ll stop doing pantomimes if he stops doing plays.” And she actually said, “You know, he’s got a point, Barry.” Barry Stead was furious but we went on to become great friends…”
In 2001 Kenneth Alan Taylor hung up his frocks and high heels and stepped down as dame after 21 years. He continued to write and direct the Playhouse panto and in 2008/09 came out of panto retirement to make a special appearance as the dame in Aladdin to celebrate his 25th anniversary.
After Aladdin Kenneth was convinced that his days of acting in pantomime were over, but in 2011 he announced that he would be playing dame in Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood. Audiences welcomed his return as Nurse Nelly Noggins.
Shortly after, Kenneth announced that he would be appearing in Jack and the Beanstalk, our 30th pantomime, and promised that it would most definitely be his last. Audiences enjoyed a quintessential farewell performance and now look forward to seeing John Elkington as the Playhouse Dame. This year John plays Bella the Ugly Sister in Cinderella.
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