Black Theatre Live

Kenneth More Theatre

Kenneth More Theatre

Venue details

Oakfield Road, Ilford,
Essex
IG1 1BT Telephone: 020 8553 4464
Venue Email: [email protected]

Contact: Steven Day
Email: [email protected]

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It has often been asked: why is the Theatre named after the actor Kenneth More, was he from Ilford? It is almost certainly true that Kenneth More (or Kenny as he was known) had never stepped a foot into Ilford until it was proposed to name the Theatre after him. So how did the Theatre come to bear his name? Back in 1973 a number of discussions took place as to what the name should be. There were a great many suggestions, but it was soon decided that the way to go was to follow contemporary theatre fashion and name the Theatre after a living theatrical celebrity.  New theatres had recently been named after Dame Peggy Ashcroft (Croydon 1962), Jeanetta Cochrane (1964), Dame Sybil Thorndike (Leatherhead, 1969), and theatres under construction would honour Sir Michael Redgrave (Farnham), Laurence Olivier and Olivier Lyttleton (National Theatre auditoria). Some actors with local connections were considered, but one by one they were ruled out. Kenneth More’s name came up as he was a typically British figure and was very popular at the time due to the success of The Forsythe Saga and was very well known for his many film roles including roles as wartime hero Douglas Bader in Reach For the Sky and Ambrose in Genevieve.

When approached, Kenneth More was delighted to accept and enthusiastic to add some real support.  In October, 1973 he came to Ilford for the ‘topping out’ ceremony of the Theatre which was to bear his name.  On January 3rd, 1975 he unveiled a plaque to commemorate the official opening night of the Kenneth More Theatre.  He took an active role in fundraising, made regular visits, appeared in a gala performance and presented the first Kenny Awards in 1980.  The Theatre still has a large bundle of correspondence between the Theatre Manager at the time and Kenny and his wife. Kenny also gave the Theatre many photographs depicting himself in many different film roles. Kenny often appeared at the Theatre unannounced and took the staff to dinner. One time when he came to visit during a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream he was told to wait in the bar, but went behind and happily acted as barman until he smashed two glasses and a bottle. A few days later the Theatre bar received some ice making equipment which Kenny pretended to know nothing about. Sadly however, within a few years he was stricken with Parkinson’s Disease and unable to visit.  He died in 1982, aged 67.


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