I did a play in Manchester a while back called "Suspended in Space" - written by Keith Temple who has written for Dr Who; Heartbeat; Casualty and Eastenders, amongst other shows. It's a really funny dark comedy drama which unfolds in a moving way.

It featured three people stuck in a lift at a scifi convention - an extra; a high maintenance diva and a geek. My part was Vince Mitchell who was haf crab, half robot Grattybarfarloolander of Chrizemlecaster 4 in the Wailing Window Nebula of Aktephaeron in the original series. (Try saying THAT with your teeth out). 

It was the height of summer and I had to wear a robot head; crab costume; tinfoil leggings and wellingtons! Great part and lots of fun to do but oh how we sometimes suffer for our art.


 Coincidences seem to abound in my life. Here's  one.


I was travelling down to London last November to attend an audition and found that my reserved seat was next to an attractive young lady in her 30s.


We entered into conversation and she told me she had been in Manchester to publicise a play that she had written. (Coincidence number one: Actor sits next to playwright).


She turned out to be Amy Rosenthal, the daughter of the late Jack Rosenthal, the  brilliant award winning film and television script writer and husband of actress Maureen Lipman. (Coincidence number two: her parents and I had mutual friends: a newspaper reporter I used to work with.I frequently stayed at his and his wife's home near Blackpool and one day Amy's dad Jack had given me a lift into town to catch a bus home to Manchester).


After a delightful journey to London, we decided to keep in touch by email. A couple of weeks later came coincidence number three. Completely unrelated to the chance meeting with Amy, I get a call from my agent Debs to ask if I would be interested in taking part in a play in Manchester based on three Coronation Street scripts from the 1960s written by and in tribute to, wait for it,  Jack Rosenthal.


As I love Coronation Street and given my history in it, I leap at the chance to play the old Rovers' Return landlord Jack Walker.


To the delight of the cast, Jack's widow and Amy's mum, Maureen, came to watch the play and I found myself sitting next to her as we watched another play upstairs in the little theatre room at the Lass o' Gowrie pub in Manchester where our Coronation Street production was taking place. (Coincidence number four- I had now sat next to all three separate members of the Rosenthal family on three different occasions)


Maureen was very moved by the production and very complimentary to our cast. We spoke together on the last night and I told her about the various coincidences, which Amy had also mentioned to her, and she leaned towards me conspiratorially and said "I have to tell you that there is another coincidence you might like to hear about.


"A couple of days ago, I did a gig for charity in the Midlands and the man who organised it was called....Dave Dutton."


Coincidence number five and perhaps the spookiest of the lot.


I was in London and had had a lovely afternoon with the family. Sunday dinner. Playing with my darling granddaughter Sam.

Everyone went and left me to have a couple of pints more.

So. I went in a pub further down the road. The Red Lion in Ealing. It's an actors' type of pub and faces Ealing Studios. Has pics of all the old thesps who frequented it: from the Lavender Hill Mob to the Carry On team. 

As I got to the bar, a group of about 8 young 'uns with two big dogs came in at the same time. I stood waiting to be served and two of the lads stood beside me.

Just then a kid of about 10 years of age walked from the back behind the bar so one of the lads said to him jokingly:"Eight pints of lager and some crisps, mate" . He smirked back at them in a humouring sort of way as kids that age do and I said to the lad beside me: "You ordering off the midget barman?"

"Oooh" he said. "You can't call them midgets these days. Vertically challenged or summat".

We got to talking and they asked where I was from. I said "Manchester way".

The lad next to me then peered closely at me and said:" Are you an actor?" I thought "Eee, I've been spotted by a fan" so I said yes I was.

What he said next, floored me...

He leaned towards me and said: "You were my granddad".


He saw the puzzlement on my face, then added: "You played my granddad on the telly!"


It took a few seconds to sink in, then it dawned on me. It was Jonathan Howard who had played my grandson in a three part series called "Looking After the Penneys" and it had been 11 years since we last met! No longer a boy but a handsome young feller who starred in the Dream Team football based telly series.

By sheer chance (or was it) our paths had crossed again after all that time and I discovered that he was out with his friends to celebrate landing a great part in the film Thor: The Dark World. One of his mates gave a little speech congratulating him on getting the part and also being reunited with his "granddad". 

We had a catchup on the intervening years and I had a good few hours together with him and his great bunch of friends and we're all going to meet up again soon.

He said the only reason he hadn't recognised me right away but only when I started speaking was because I looked younger than he remembered me 11 years previously.  That earned him a pint, I can tell you.

Funny how things work out.

If I hadn't chosen that pub; if I'd gone in a few minutes before or after; if that kid hadn't walked behind the bar; if we hadn't started chatting...

Whatever the case, I'm glad I did as it gave me the chance to have my "grandson" back .

We had a marvellous time working together on The Penneys (despite the house we were filming being wrecked on the final day of the shoot which is another story) and who knows - if fate conspires, we may yet get to work together again. Stranger things have happened, eh?

(It also turned out that the buddhist I mentioned before is a mutual friend)





Jonathan and me.                  Us in The Penneys


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