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Dame Penelope Keith
Penelope Anne Constance Hatfield was born in Sutton, Surrey in 1940. She was brought up in Clacton by her mother, Connie, after her father walked out on the family when Penelope was a baby.
I met Penelope Keith at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham, in October 2010, after her performance as Mrs Malaprop in Sheridan's play The Rivals. I saw her again the following day when she signed a print of this photograph for me - adding the word 'Pineapples!' (a malapropism from the play).
When she was six years old, Penelope was sent away to a Catholic boarding school (although she was not a Catholic) in Seaford, East Sussex. Whilst there she became interested in acting, and would often be taken by her mother to theatre matinees in London's West End. Her mother remarried in 1948 and Penelope adopted her stepfather's surname of Keith.
A young Penelope Keith
She applied to go to the Central School of
of Speech and Drama, but rejected because of her height. She was later accepted at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art and, during her two years there, also did evening work at the Hyde Park Hotel.
As an actress, she worked in repertory in Chesterfield (her very first role was as Alice Pepper in Joseph Field's Tunnel of Love at the Civic Theatre in 1959), Manchester, Lin- coln and Salisbury.
Keith & Felicity Kendal in
The Norman Conquests
in The Regina Monologues (2003); Madame Arcati in Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit (2004); Grac
Since then she has appeared in at least one stage production most years. Notable among her many performances are as Sarah in Alan Ayckbourn's trilogy The Norman Conquests (1974); Lady Driver in Donkeys’ Years (1976), for which she won a Laurence Olivier Award; Orinthia in The Apple Cart
Benjamin Whitrow & Penelope Keith in
Peter Bowles & Penelope Keith
Programme for Star Quality
Cart (1977); Maggie in Hobson's Choice (1986); Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest (1991 & 2007); Lorraine Barrie in Noel Coward's Star Quality (2001); Queen Elizabeth I
(2006) and Mrs Malaprop in Richard Sheridan's The Rivals (2010).
Penelope Keith as Elizabeth I in
The Regina Monologues
Grace in Entertaining Angels
Patrick McNee & Penelope Keith in
The Avengers (1969)
Penelope Keith as Madame Arcati
in Blithe Spirit
Penelope Keith as Lady Bracknell in
The Importance of Being Earnest
In the late 1960s, Penelope Keith had small TV roles in popular series like Dixon of Doc
1970s, she played Wendy Padbury in the six-episode TV series Kate (1970-72); Mrs Hittaway in The Pallisers (1974) and
made an appearance on The Morecambe & Wise Show.
Penelope Keith with Morecambe & Wise
Penelope Keith as a bride in
The Avengers (1965)
In 1975, Penelope Keith became a household name as the posh & haughty social climber, Margo Leadbett
Felicity Kendal, Richard Briers, Penelope Keith
& Paul Eddington in The Good Life
Leadbetter, who looks down on the lifestyle of her self-sufficiency neighbours (played by Richard Briers and Felicity Ke
Penelope Keith as Margo Leadbetter
in The Good Life
From 1979 - 1981 she played a similar role as Audrey Fforbes-Hamilton in 21 epi
Kendal) in The Good Life. This was a 30-episode series which ran from 1975 until 1978. Keith won a BAFTA 'Best Comedy Performer' award in 1977
1977 for her role as Margo. In a BBC poll, The Good Life was voted 9th favourite 'sitcom' of all time.
episodes of the comedy series To The Manor Born, with a final, 'Christmas
'Christmas Special' episode in 2007. Peter Bowles co-starred as a supermarket boss Richard De Vere who buys Audrey's Manor House. She then moves into the Old Lodge nearby to keep an eye on him!
Penelope Keith as
Audrey in To The Manor Born
Penelope Keith & Peter Bowles in
To The Manor Born
Other TV series roles for Penelope Keith were Helen Morgan in Sweet Sixteen (1983); Sarah Gladwyn in Moving (1985); Caroline Fielding in Executive Stress (1986-88); new Labour MP Je
As Caroline in Executive Stress
With Donald Pickering in Private Lives
With June Brown in Margery and Gladys
As Jean Price in No Job for a Lady
With Ronald Pickup in Moving
As Phillippa Troy in Law and Disorder
Jean Price in No Job for a Lady (1990-92); the barrister Phillippa Troy in Law and Disorder (1994) and Maggie in Next of Kin (1995-96). Executive Stress was yet another series where Penelope Keith teamed up with Peter Bowles for the second & third series.
With William Gaunt in Next of Kin
With Jeremy Brett in On Approval
One-off TV dramas have included Private Lives (1976)
(1976); The Norman Conquests (1977); On Approval (1982) with Jeremy Brett; Coming Home (1998) with Peter O'Toole &.
& Joanna Lumley and Margery and Gladys (2003) wi
with June Brown. More recently she presented a documentary Penelope Keith and the Fast Lady (2009) about
As Sarah in The Norman Conquests
about the Edwardian motoring pioneer Dorothy Levitt.
As Dorothy Levitt in
Penelope Keith and the Fast Lady
With so much TV and theatre work, Penelope's film work has been limited to very minor roles in no more than half a dozen productions.
Penelope Keith's highly recognisable voice has been heard in adverts for Tesco, Pimms, Lurpak and for Parker Pens. She also provided the narration for the children's series The Teletubbies.
Penelope Keith's Parker Pen advert
Penelope Keith is married to an ex-policeman Rodney Timson, and they have two adopted sons.
Penelope & husband Rodney
Penelope Keith was made an OBE in 1990, and received the CBE in the 2007 New Year Honours for her services to charity. For the past 20 years, she has been President of the Actors' Benevolent Fund, and is also a Royal British Legion volunteer.
Penelope Keith CBE
In 2002 she served for one year as the High Sheriff of Surrey, and she is also a Deputy Lieutenant of Surrey.
A keen gardener, Penelope Keith had a rose named after her in 1984.
The Penelope Keith rose
(above & right) Penelope Keith
relaxes at home
in Richard Sheridan's play
Dock Green (1965) & The Avengers (1965 & 1969). In the early 1970s
Penelope has signed my programme for The Rivals
Penelope has signed my photo and added 'Pineapples!'
Penelope Keith was made a Dame in the 2014 New Year Honours list.