Old King Cole

Written by Ken Campbell

Tuesday 22nd February to Saturday 26th February 2000

Directed by Peter Corrigan

The Old King Cole of the nursery rhyme hardly gets a look in, since the action is dominated by a couple of likeable villains - Baz, the Dirty Tricks monger and his twitty assistant Twoo. Their attempts to wreck the wedding of princess Daphne Cole to sporty Cyril, The Fiddler are aided and abetted by an audience whose noisy participation is guaranteed. Old King Cole's irreverent knockabout style of theatre will appeal to young and old.

Warning, There will be loud noises, flashing lights a strobe and ... paraphernalia!!!

AuthorKen Campbell

Ken Campbell (1941 - 2008)

Actor and director Ken Campbell performed in numerous television roles including 'Fawlty Towers', 'Marple' and 'Brookside', as well as writing plays and directing his own touring company.

Born in Ilford, London, he joined the Victoria Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent, as an actor and resident dramatist. With the help of fellow actors including Bob Hoskins he also founded the Ken Campbell Roadshow, a small theatre group that toured unconventional venues. In 1979, Ken wrote a script adaptation for 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' and he gained international acclaim with the play 'Skungpoomery' which was translated into German by F K Waechter, whose own play 'School for Clowns' Ken later adapted to English. Also famous for his one man shows, Ken won many awards for what he refers to as his "sit-down tragedies" including 'Furtive Nudist', and 'Jamais Vu' which was named winner of the Evening Standard award for comedy in 1993. Ken's diversity showed further when he presented three science-based series on Channel 4 entitled 'Reality on the Rocks', 'Brainspotting' and 'Six Experiments that Changed the World'. Ken died suddenly in 2008, only days after his last performances as part of the Edinburgh festival. His Doctorate of Staffordshire University was presented posthumously on the occasion of his funeral.

PlayOld King Cole

During his time at Victoria Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent, as an actor and resident dramatist in 1967, Ken Campbell wrote his own version of children's classic Old King Cole. "I was told I could write what I like so long as it had a famous title," said Ken. "I looked through nursery rhymes and came across Old King Cole and then gave it a Beano and Dandy feel. At the time it was a revolutionary children's Christmas play as most were adaptations of Grimm tales or pantomimes." This "comic strip" pantomime which was first presented in Stoke that year and later published in 1972, proved a children's classic.

The plot follows the adventures of a group of nursery rhyme characters. In order to win the hand of the Princess Daphne - and the chance to succeed Old King Cole as King of England - Baron Wadd must win a specially arranged sports contest at Wembley Stadium. Since he is the weediest man in the world, and his opponent Cyril the Fiddler is a top notch sporto, the Baron is forced to take desperate measures and ask the Amazing Faz to help him cheat.

The Bench Production

Old King Cole poster image

This play was staged at Havant College, New Road Havant. This was the second production of this play which had been staged by the company, the first being staged in November 1983 & July 1984, also under Peter Corrigan's direction.


The Amazing FazDavid Penrose
TwooPete Woodward
Baron WardJim Flanagan
Master of CeremoniesMark Wakeman
Cyril the FiddlerAlan Welton
Old King ColeDavid Hill
Old Queen ColeSharman Callam
Princess Daphne ColeRobin Hall


Director Peter Corrigan
Crew Derek Callam
Paul Millington
Sue Dawes
Zoë Corrigan


The NewsMike Allen

King Cyril and his funny subjects

Three things you didn't know about Old King Cole: he wasn't a particularly merry old soul, he had a daughter called Daphne, and only one of his fiddlers three appears to have been visible. He is called Cyril, wants to marry Daphne, wears red pants (never trust a chap in red pants) and makes a finger-lickin' good chicken. In short, what Bench Theatre offers at Havant this week, is not the nursery rhyme but Ken Campbell's anarchically comic variation on it. The in-the-round production - 90 minutes short with no interval - is aimed at children but also delighted this adult and even a few teenagers last night.

David Penrose plays a kind of mad professor called Faz and Peter Woodward his assistant Twoo (not Too Good To Be Twoo, but Twit Twoo), and they thrive on every opportunity to play nonsensical tricks with such objects as sausages served from a cigar case. "If only we'd rehearsed with them" was Penrose's lament, and he and the delightfully gormless Woodward relish the ad-libbing.

Strong performances, too, from Jim Flanagan as Cyril's weedy rival in love and Robin Hall as gawkily rebellious Daphne. Until Saturday.

The News, 23rd February 2000

Production Photographs