NOT only Dame Berwick Kaler is calling time on pantomime this winter. So too is fellow veteran Ken Morley, the Coronation Street alumnus, 2015 Celebrity Big Brother ejectee and voice of excitable double glazing adverts.

"This will be my last one," he says in a break from rehearsing for his panto farewell at the Grand Opera House, York, in Cinderella And The Lost Slipper. "I'll be 76 on my next birthday [January 17]; I've had a quadruple heart bypass operation, and it's time to let someone else do it."

Ken is returning to the York theatre after playing Maurice, Belle's father, in Three Bears Productions' Beauty And The Beast last winter, and this time he will be donning frocks and rouge from Friday to January 5 to play Ugly Sister Covonia, opposite regular dame Steve Wickenden's Ugly Sister Calpol.

"Ken is officially the funniest person I've ever worked with in my life," says Steve. "That's why I'm so happy to be working with him again, because once he gets that glint in his eye, you know something will be happening, but you're not sure what!

"We only had a few scenes together last time, so we're looking forward to building on that in Cinderella. From last time, we know how each other works, and we want to take it further this year."

Part of the banter between the fractious Ugly Sisters will revolve around the younger Wickenden playing the older sister. "I take solace from the fact that the nearest audience members are about 300 miles away from the front, so no-one can tell I'm really older," jokes Ken, whose tongue then heads further into his cheek.

"The whole point is that we were created by mistake by our father when he got drunk, and we know we have no money now, but we must foist ourselves on everyone rich because one of us must marry the Prince.

"We both have the same fashions, the same obsession, which is money, and we both still want a man, any man, with a pulse!"

York Press:

Stairway to mayhem: Ken Morley's Ugly Sister Covonia and Steve Wickenden's Ugly Sister Calpol at the Grand Opera House pantomime launch at The Principal hotel. Picture: David Harrison

Best known for his soap-opera years as Reg Holdsworth in Coronation Street from 1989 to 1995 and as General Leopold von Flockenstuffen in the BBC1 sitcom Allo, Allo! from 1988 to 1991, Ken recalls working with York Theatre Royal stalwart Berwick Kaler too. "We did a play written by that Greek comedian Aristophanes, The Poet And The Women, in London. We both did very well there as neither of us have worked in London ever again and both of us have ended up in York!" he says.

Now Ken is playing Covonia, named after a sore throat spray. "I've always got a sore throat, though I can't tell you why. I'll leave that to your imagination!" he says.

Sore throat or not, he is happy in a comedy partnership with Steve Wickenden, whereas Berwick Kaler is known to find Ugly Sister restrictive for a dame who wants to pull the strings. "Berwick's dame likes to take the role where he's certain that 'everyone else is wrong, look at these fools', and always has the last word, so, by nature, he couldn't be an Ugly Sister, where they have to be a double act,"Ken reasons.

This prompts Steve to say of Ken: "You have to do a double act with someone you know you can do it well with and will make you laugh, and knowing I would be doing this show with Ken is a good feeling, because I know Ken is an old pro so he will take it seriously while having a laugh."

Ken's deadpan, disarming humour was certainly at play at the Cinderella launch event at The Principal hotel. "When we were walking through the hotel in our frocks, I introduced myself to some Japanese tourists as the general manager and told them there was a cross-dressing convention going on that day!" he says.

He can be serious too, however, not least when reflecting on the abiding message in Cinderella. "The greatest fear of any child is to be left alone with no parent; the greatest hope is to find happiness," he says.

Exit stage left, Ken Morley, but not before one last hurrah as an Ugly Sister with a sore throat in Cinderella in York.

Three Bears Productions present Cinderella And The Lost Slipper, Grand Opera House, December 14 to January 5 2019. Box office: 0844 871 3024 or at