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Just Wilde about the stage
No stranger to Newcastle, Robert Powell is back in the city next week for some Wilde wit. Showbusiness Reporter Gordon Barr finds out more

He's graced the stage of the Theatre Royal many a time over the years.

But it was a time off-stage and on the pitch in the Toon that actor Robert Powell remembers most about his visits to Tyneside.

This particular occasion occurred more than 30 years ago, and featured Toon legend Jackie Milburn.

The football player, of course, was well-known for his dribbling and striking skills. A Newcastle United member, he could get a ball past most opponents with great ease.

So it didn't come as any surprise to actor Robert Powell when the soccer star got the better of him at a showbiz match in Newcastle. What he didn't bargain for was it happening again and again and the ball going past him between his legs. "Yes, Jackie Milburn nut-megged me three times," recalls Powell, who stars in The Picture of Dorian Gray at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle, next week.

"The crowd thought it was the funniest thing they had ever seen. Oh yes, I remember it well."

Robert is mad on football, having been brought up just a mile and half from Manchester United's ground, Old Trafford.

Once acclaimed for taking up the title role in the TV series Jesus Of Nazareth, of late Powell has perhaps been best known as Jasper Carrot's sidekick in the comedy series The Detectives.

"I loved doing it. Jasper and I have been mates for years," he says.

"I had some friends who thought I made a big mistake doing it, and some still do, but I have always gone with gut instinct and what I want to do.

"When Jasper first phoned me up to do the sketch with him, I thought it was a great idea and it was me who pushed for it to be made into a series.

"It's great, as youngsters, who don't know me as a theatre or straight actor, now associate me with comedy."

The new adaptation of the celebrated fantasy The Picture of Dorian Gray intertwines Oscar Wilde's unmistakable wit with a macabre tale of corruption and murder, while introducing a host of intriguing characters.

Gordon Barr, The Evening Chronicle (Newcastle), 19th September 2003.