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Saturday, September 17, 2022

Town's showbiz vicar to appear on Hattie Jacques TV documentary

* Hattie Jacques at the height of her career.

Llangollen’s showbiz vicar is due to make another national TV appearance tonight (Saturday). 

Fresh from his guest spot on the BBC’s Song of Praise just a few weeks ago, Father Lee Taylor, priest-in-charge of St Collen’s, will this time pop up on a Channel 5 documentary about much-loved comedienne Hattie Jacques, starting at 8pm. 

He is among family, friends, fans and co-stars who will chart the highs and lows of her career. 

Father Lee is a leading light in the Victorian music hall revival and regularly chairs and appears in the variety shows staged at London’s famous Players’ Theatre, known as the home of British music hall. 

In Llangollen he also founded the Collen Players which presents music hall shows at the Community Hall. 

And, as he will recall on screen, it was there that Hattie Jacques, who went on to huge acclaim as a star of the Carry On films, had her start in show business more than 70 years ago. 

* Father Lee Taylor in his music hall guise.

The theatre in Bloomsbury Way dates back to 1936 when it was co-founded by Leonard Sachs, the tongue-twisting, gavel-wielding compere of smash-hit TV series The Good Old Days in the sixties and seventies. 

Since then it has become the venue most associated with the music hall revival, attracting legendary entertainers such as Hattie Jacques, Ian Carmichael, Clive Dunn, Daphne Anderson, Maggie Smith, Marion Grimaldi, Margaret Burton and Sir Peter Ustinov who in 1996 became its honorary president.

Father Lee said: “The Player's Theatre was the launch pad for Hattie Jacques's career. It is where she made her first stage debut, developed her persona, formed many acting partnerships, met her lover Major Charles Kearney and her future husband John Le Mesurier. 

“During the Second World War nearly all London theatre closed but not The Players! The Players moved from its Covent Garden location to the basement premises at No. 30 Albermarle Street. 

“It is here where Hattie's brother, Robin, was working as a lift operator and cloakroom attendant. He introduced Hattie to The Players while she was working as a Voluntary Aid Detachment Nurse. Hattie fell in love with The Players and would regularly attend the 'Late Joys' as well as help out backstage.

“It was in the summer of 1944, at the age of 22, that Hattie had her first audition with Leonard Sachs. She sang Call Round Any Old Time , a song originally sung by music hall performer Victoria Monks, and A Little of What You Fancy Does You Good, a song popularised by Marie Lloyd.


“She sang in the style of Marie Lloyd which impressed Sachs as he was on the lookout for just the right person to perform in the style of Lloyd. He hired her on the spot. That was a Thursday afternoon. The following Monday night Hattie was on the bill at The Players' Theatre.

“Hattie was a hit with the audience. They loved her warmth, energy, comic timing and her teasing glances. Hattie would also interact with the MD  - a six-piece band consisting of one pianist and five absentees - adroitly making innuendo over the short musical interludes in the score.


“The audience would chant, 'We want Hattie!' and she soon became known as 'The Queen of The Players' or 'Queen of The Joys'.

“Hattie performed in many pantomimes, plays and revues at The Players up until the 1960's. She appeared regularly as The Good Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty in The Wood. The Times reported that she was most definitely one of the 'funniest fairies' to be seen on the stage!” 

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