Howell Evans who died on September 9th at the age of 86 has had one of the most extensive and varied careers imaginable – in TV, cinema, theatre and pantomime. Through seventy years in the business, the range of his work has been enormous:
He has played featured and ongoing roles in many of the iconic TV series : Crossroads (Dudley Scrivens), Softly Softly (DC Morgan), Coronation Street (Tegwin Thomas), Tracy Beaker (Grandpa Jack), and even up to last year, regularly appearing as Daddy in Sky TV’s “Stella”. His cameo and guest TV appearances have included included Holby City, Benidorm, Little Britain, Open All Hours, Z Cars, Dr Finlay’s Casebook, and How Green Was My Valley.
Variety, Summer Shows and Music Hall:
By the middle of 1952 he was a featured young comic at Chelsea Palace on a bill with Gladys Morgan and Tommy Cooper, and at the same time became an established comedy double-act with his wife, Patricia Kane. Their double-act was put on a short hold in June 1953 when their son, Warwick, was born, but they were soon back on the variety circuit, supporting the top-liners of the day, including Shirley Bassey
Their summer seasons included four consecutive Fol-de-Rols seasons in York, Worthing, Brighton, and Weston-super-Mare with fellow performers like Freddie Sales and Joan Mann; several 1970s seasons in revue on the Isle of Wight, and seasons at Cleethorpes, Eastbourne Royal Hippodrome, Bognor Regis and Hove. In the 1980s they played a season at Folkestone with Harry Worth, and regular music hall seasons for Duggie Chapman. They continued to perform regularly in Old Time Music Hall at the Watermill, Bagnor and at Sonning through the 1990s and celebrated their 60th Wedding Anniversary there.
In January 1975 their careers took a change of direction, with both of them appearing in John McGrath’s “Fish in the Sea” at London’s Half-Moon Theatre in a production by the 7:84 Theatre Company. From then on Howell (often with Pat, and occasionally on his own) appeared in numerous straight plays. Christmas 1975 was spent in the West End with a three week season of “Christmas Carol” – the cast included, father, mother and son, Warwick, and they returned to this production for the 1978 Christmas season at the Towngate, Basildon.
In 1976 Howell played Toad in “Toad of Toad Hall” at the New Theatre, Cardiff, directed by Martin Williams, and through the 1980s frequently performed at the Theatr Clwyd in Mold , in such plays as “My People” by Caradoc Evans, and “Night Must Fall”. Howell played several seasons at the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff, including Dogberry in Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing”, Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman”, and Ed in Joe Orton’s “Entertaining Mr Sloane” (with Pat as a much acclaimed Kath). These last two were directed by Gareth Armstrong.
Other legitimate theatre roles included Chekov’s Uncle Vanya, and tours of Gogol’s “Government Inspector”, the musical “70 Girls 70” with Dora Bryan, Ann Emery and Jan Hunt.
Howell occasionally appeared in experimental and Fringe Theatre productions at venues like London’s Red Lion, Bus Theatre and the King’s Head. As late as 2005, at the age of 76, he, Pat and Warwick, appeared in a workshop production at the Hungarian Cultural Centre, trying out a new Hungarian musical called “The Attic”.
However, here at It’s Behind You, it is Howell’s pantomime legacy that we most admire. He made his pantomime debut, following service in the RAF, was in 1951 at the New Cardiff playing one of the King’s Men in “Humpty Dumpty”. It was a baptism of fire, since halfway through the run he suddenly had to take over as Dame to replace an ailing Freddie Frinton.
His marriage to Patricia Kane, the development of their comedy double-act and the birth of their son, meant his next panto was not until 1959 – “Jack and the Beanstalk” at Barnstaple Regal in 1959, with Howell playing Dame and Pat as Princess, with Welsh comedian Ivor Owen as Muggles. In 1961 Howell and Pat were Nurse Glucose and Maid Marion at Swansea Grand in “Babes in the Wood” appearing alongside Ossie Morris and Kenneth Earle & Malcolm Vaughan.
In 1971 they appeared as Ugly Sisters – an unusual man-women combination – in Stan Stennett’s “Cinderella” at Porthcawl, with Johnny Stewart, Lesley King and Mari-Claire. The following year they repeated their Sisters speciality at the Wyvern, Swindon, with Freddie Lees as Buttons.
In 1973 they took a break from sisters, performing in “Little Red Riding Hood” at the Theatre Royal, Windsor, with Howell as Dame, and Pat as the gauche Milkmaid. But in 1976 they were back as Uglies at Cardiff New, with Stan Stennett, Craig Douglas and Desmond Barritt. And the following year they repeated their Sisters double at Harlow Playhouse .
In 1979 they performed a Christmas season at the Double Diamond Club in Caephilly with Stan Stennett’s “Billy & Bonzo meet Red Riding Hood”. This time Howell played Grandma and Pat was Blodwen, the maid.
The successive years included “Cinderella” on a South Wales tour with Stan Stennett; “Dick Whittington” in Mold; “Cinderella” in Luton with Davy Jones – this time playing Baron Hardup and Blodwen; then in 1983 back to Ugly Sisters at the Orchard, Dartford, with a cast including Dickie Henderson, Jack Douglas, Wendy Richard and Sandi Toksvig.
In 1984 and 1985 they played two successive years at the Civic Hall Camberley for Charles Haley Productions. The first year was a repeat of the Davy Jones “Cinderella” with Howell as Baron and Pat as Blodwen. The second was a “Puss in Boots” with Floella Benjamin and Roy Alvis. (Roy Alvis played Dame, and Pat was Blodwen. The panto was written and directed by Howell Evans, but it seems he did not actually appear in it.)
Following a break of several years Howell’s next panto was in 1992 at the Memorial Hall, Barry. This was Stan Stennett’s “Billy & Bonzo meet Robinson Crusoe” with Howell as Squire Perkins and Pat as Dame Crusoe – Pat being one of the few comediennes who have played Dame. They returned to this venue the following year in “Billy & Bonzo meet Red Riding Hood”, again with Howell as Baron and Pat in the Dame role, as Grandma.
After the 1994 “Wizard of Oz” at Mold, with Howell playing Professor Marvel and The Wizard, it seems he decided to ease back on the demands of long-running, twice-daily pantomimes, and he and Pat spent several Christmas seasons in old time music hall shows nearer their home, often in the company of Helen Watson and her Music Hall Company.
Nigel Ellacott wrote:
The first time I met Howell Evans was on the set of “How Green Was My Valley” which we recorded during the Summer in Mid Wales in the early ‘seventies. I had the great pleasure of working with both Howell and Pat – for the first time at the New Theatre in Cardiff in 1976 when Howell played Toad, and Pat the Bargewoman. This very spectacular production directed by Martin Williams also saw pantomime Dames -to -be Desmond Barritt and Jeffrey Longmore in the company. Des played Alfred The Horse, and Jeff and I were the Chief Weasel and Stoat gangsters.
I was later to tour for Charles Haley Productions with Howell and Pat in “A Christmas Carol”, with Howell as a hugely impressive Scrooge and Pat as Mrs Cratchit and Mrs Dilber. We also toured together in “Pinocchio” and “Wind In The Willows”, a couple of these I had the joy of directing- but being in thrall of the amazing partnership both on and off that these two consummate professionals brought to the fore.
Here at IBY we would like to send our sincere condolences to Pat, to Warwick and to all friends and family.