Old King Cole

Written by Ken Campbell

Sat 3rd Dec, Sat 10th Dec 1983, Sat 28th July & Mon 30th July - Weds 1st August 1984

Directed by Peter Corrigan

A minor masterpiece of cartoonery, mad invention and childlike glee. A children's play with a difference.

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 Bench Production

Old King Cole poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977. During the Christmas run, there were 4 matinee performances given on the same Saturdays as the production of Major Barbara (which was being staged in the evenings). The production was revived again with the same cast, the following July for a run of 6 performances.

Bench Theatre also staged this play again in 2000, at Havant College under Peter Corrigan's direction but with a different cast.


The Amazing FazDavid Penrose
TwooNicola Scadding
Baron WardPeter Holding
Sports CommentatorCarol Edwards
Cyril the FiddlerFrank Lyons
Old King ColeColin Hardy
Old Queen ColeJane Hart
Princess Daphne ColeJo German


Director Peter Corrigan
Stage Manager Frances Brettell
Assistant Stage Managers Jim Cameron
Carol Edwards
Lighting and sound Lezley Picton
Costumes Robbie Cattermole
Set Design and Poster Jane Hart
Ton Weight Peter Codd
Janice Bell
House Managers Ingrid Corrigan
Jude Salmon

Production Photographs