Writer: Jimmie Chinn
Director: Noreen Kershaw
Reviewer: Richard Hall
Actor and director, Kenneth Alan Taylor first performed at the Oldham Repertory Theatre in 1959 and has since appeared at the Coliseum in over three hundred productions. During two spells as the Coliseum’s Artistic Director, Alan Taylor directed some of the theatre’s most memorable productions including in 1998 the premiere of the iconic A Different Way Home, which starred the legendary Theatre and Television comic actor, Roy Barraclough. Twenty-one years later, Alan Taylor returns to the Coliseum to perform the two contrasting monologues that make up Jimmie Chinn’s play. They are delivered by a brother and sister who tell in great detail how they are coming to terms with the death of their recently departed mother.
At the heart of both monologues is an ongoing bitter family feud the root of which over the course of the two monologues gradually becomes clear. The feud has prevented Leslie and his younger sister Maureen from talking to each other for several years. As each recounts their life stories and the role that their mother played in their lives, layers of guilt and self-doubt are revealed which make for deeply moving and compelling drama. Chinn’s two monologues are clearly written with a lot of love and affection for his characters and also for the people of Middleton and Oldham who he lived amongst for most of his life and undoubtedly knew very well.
Aged eighty, Alan Taylor deservedly won a Manchester Theatre Award for his mesmerising and stunning performance as a dementia sufferer in the Coliseum’s production of The Father. Two years later, Alan Taylor gives an equally impressive performance in this excellent one-man show. In the first monologue, Taylor movingly portrays Leslie’s raw grief, isolation and deep-rooted bitterness towards his sister. In the second monologue, Alan Taylor (looking uncannily like Deirdre Barlow’s mother, Blanche Hunt from Coronation Street), lays bare in full the anguish and extreme hurt of a woman who has been wronged by those who she has loved the most, including Leslie and her mother. As the reasons for the family feud unfold, one can only feel great sadness that these two characters have been unable to resolve their differences. That the audience should feel this way and be so connected with each character is undeniably tribute to both Alan Taylor’s sensational performance and director, Noreen Kershaw’s controlled, sensitive and unobtrusive direction.
For many years Alan Taylor combined running the Coliseum Theatre with playing the Dame in the Nottingham Playhouse’s highly acclaimed annual pantomime. Such is the esteem in which he is still held in Nottingham that a bus was recently named in his honour. Given his extraordinary and prodigious love and enthusiasm for all things Oldham and in particular the Coliseum, it would surely be fitting for the local Council to now go one better and name a street after him. There are few actors of Alan Taylor’s age and calibre still actively performing on stage with such verve and vigour and I would strongly urge theatre lovers from the North West and beyond to make every effort to see this pitch-perfect production, the like of which may never be seen again.
Runs until Saturday 9 February 2019 | Image: Contributed