HE can’t help but make a reference to Robin Hood but Ken Morley does know more about our city than the obvious.
“I relish saying to people from Nottingham ‘did you go in the caves,” he says.
“And they always say ‘what caves?’ I say ‘didn’t you realise Nottingham has got the biggest system of underground caves in Europe? In the 1800s there were 30,000 people living in caves of Nottingham.’”
I knew that. Ahem...
Morley, who has appeared here at both the Theatre Royal and Nottingham Playhouse, will be back later this month for Corrie!, a new comedy play, written by long-term Coronation Street scriptwriter Jonathan Harvey. It features a cast of five actors playing some of the most famous characters from the past 50 years of TV’s longest running soap.
“I’d heard on the grapevine that it was very good but being a dyed-in-the-wool cynic I thought it sounded useless, five people playing all these characters covering 50 years!?” says Morley, 67, who played Reg Holdsworth in the soap.
“I went to see it in Salford and I was gobsmacked because it was so fast and so funny and very original.
“The actors are not only very good at doing their parts, they’re very good mimics as well.”
Among the 55 characters are Bet Lynch, Elsie Tanner, Hilda Ogden and Jack Duckworth, including current Weatherfield residents Gail Platt and the Barlows; Ken, Deidre and Tracy.
Morley played Holdsworth in Coronation Street from 1989 until 1995 married to Maureen, played by Nottingham actress Sherrie Hewson. She’ll be the narrator during Corrie!’s run in Manchester.
She recently published her autobiography, so is he in it?
“Yes, she said I was a fat b.....”, he laughs.
Did he have to leave the soap because he was a naughty boy?
“I was always a naughty boy and I still am.”
As was seen on the Come Dine With Me Corrie special where he was winding up Julie Goodyear (Bet Lynch).
“I think that set a standard don’t you?” he laughs.
“Someone in The Times said ‘I see Ken Morley’s dragged society down to its lowest level again’. Get out more, son.”
He adds: “I get on very well with Julie. We speak to each other a lot because she lives 20 odd miles away from me. She is the funniest woman. My type of gal.”
The balance of drama and comedy is, he says, reflective of the TV soap.
“Of course in the series you’d have three or four minutes of some dire stuff in which someone was dying or having a dreadful experience, followed by something absolutely hilarious. And it’s the same on stage.
“The set is the street, the railway arches, all the chimneys smoking away and I’m the narrator on the viaduct. Above me is Heaven where you see a number of these characters who are now dead. They’re making very caustic remarks about the value of the show since they left it and about some of the current characters who are on stage below.
“It’s a very funny caricature of the show.”
It includes a narrowboat, reviving the story of Ken’s affair with Martha and the famous Alan Bradley tram death.
“Originally the tram itself was doing about three miles an hour but we all accepted that it killed him. We laugh at that now. In the play the tram is a painting of a full size tram on a cloth that speeds across the stage, hits Bradley, he dies and the audience roar with laughter.”
It’s been 16 years since he left Coronation Street, so is he happy to still be associated with it?
“If you’ve been in something that’s generally assessed as being the best of its kind, then you’ve nothing to be ashamed of have you?”
He recently reprised the role of Reg in the feature-length DVD Coronation Street – A Knight’s Tale.
He’ll next be seen on the small screen in reality TV show, Four Go On Holiday, which lumps celebrities together at a holiday resort.
“After Nottingham I’ll be filming that in the Canaries. But they won’t tell who else will be there. It’ll be a surprise for when I get there.”
He adds: “I turned about five plays around last year. At my time of life I tend to do what I fancy.”
Corrie! runs at the Theatre Royal from April 11 to 16. Tickets are £12 to £26 from the box office, call 01159 895 5555. For more details visit www.corrietheplay.com