There has always been a strong affinity between acting and cricket, and my friend Alan Curtis, who has died aged 90, was a perfect example of that. He combined a long theatrical career with summertime work for the MCC as the voice keeping the public informed about such vital matters as to when play would resume after a rain-break.
I first met Alan in the late 1970s when I was recording a TV interview at the Players’ theatre in London, where he chaired the theatre’s music-hall evenings. We soon discovered a shared passion for cricket but it was only later, when we became neighbours in Chiswick in west London, that I realised how extensive his acting career had been. He kept cuttings-books from the mid-40s to the early 60s, and glancing through them was like getting a potted history of post-war British theatre.
Born in Coulsdon, Surrey, to Percy, a teacher, and Muriel (nee Winter), a housewife. Alan went to Purley grammar school, after which he started acting with amateur groups and quickly gravitated into professional theatre. During the 50s he seemed to have not only acted but also directed and designed shows for just about every repertory theatre in the country.
Those were the days of weekly rep, when one play would be rehearsed in the day and another performed at night, all for the princely wage of £4.50. When in later life he overcome a debilitating stroke, I often wondered how much the speed with which he recovered his speech was connected with the memory skills he had cultivated in his rep years.
Given his imposing physique and rich baritone voice, it was no surprise to find that Alan loved pantomime. In 1957 he was in Dick Whittington at Dudley Hippodrome with Morecambe and Wise, and a year later he was directing Ken Dodd in Aladdin at the Empire, Liverpool. Between 1964 and 1972 he played the villain in a succession of Palladium pantomimes alongside Cliff Richard, Tommy Steele and Frank Ifield.
As a result of his long training in rep, Alan could turn his hand to most things. He was proud to have worked in several Morecambe and Wise TV Christmas shows, to have appeared in Doctor Who and in a number of Carry On films. But he was in his element acting as an unseen host to the public at Test match venues from 1967 to 1995. He loved the game, and after his stroke I spent many happy hours with him discussing its finer points.
Alan had an authoritative presence on stage but off it was the kindest and gentlest of men. He had troops of friends as a result. He is survived by his nieces, Rosemary and Sue, and his nephew, Chris.