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Sir Ken Dodd, a tribute

On our third day in our new jobs, the Box Office manager called to say, “I know you’re really busy, but Ken Dodd’s just popped in to ask if the two new boss ladies have started, and if they have, could he wish them well?”. 

We sprang out of the lift before she’d put the phone down.

He’d just won a public vote for the Greatest Ever Merseysider, with more than half the votes. He insisted two extra chairs be added at the celebratory lunch two days later, and introduced us to everyone with the words ‘This is Deborah, this is Gemma, now tell them what you’re going to do for the Playhouse’. 

Ken Dodd in Twelfth Night (1971)
Ken Dodd in Twelfth Night (1971)

He loved this theatre for two reasons. It was originally a variety house, and he was not only the last great exponent but the greatest scholar of this glorious artform. And it was here, in 1971, that he played Malvolio in Twelfth Night – his only Shakespearean stage role, which he considered it the greatest of honours to play.

He’s visited many, many times since then, and always stayed to praise the actors and ask if we were making any money. Every single time we saw him, he was a fountain of jokes – vintage warhorses and quips freshly sprung from that insanely inventive comedy brain.

Deborah Aydon, Ken Dodd & Gemma Bodinetz at the Playhouse (2017)
Deborah Aydon, Ken Dodd & Gemma Bodinetz at the Playhouse (2017)

The last time we saw him was at the Playhouse, too. He was filming for the BBC the day before his 90th birthday and we’d had a cake made in the shape of Malvolio’s cross-gartered legs, bearing an edited line from Twelfth Night: “Foolery, sir… shines everywhere”.  We had a thank-you note from him just a few weeks ago, saying that, with characteristic kindness, he’d taken it to his local church so that they could share it and sell the slices to boost church funds.

Last week, Mark Thomas was at the Playhouse with a show celebrating the power of comedy to change the world and to refill hearts with hope when it’s most sorely needed. 

This is a very sad day, and our hearts go out to Anne. 

Yet that sadness is peppered with heart-filling laughter from the memories and the immortal jokes Ken leaves behind.

It’s simply impossible to remember him with anything other than a smile.

What a wonderful gift he’s left us all.

Deborah and Gemma