Reece Dins­dale has spent three decades in the act­ing busi­ness but, as he tells Phil Pen­fold, play­ing Alan Ben­nett may be his most chal­leng­ing role to date.

Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - Front Page -

F Reece Dins­dale has a motto, you get the sense that it is “que sera, sera”.

Af­ter more than 30 years as a pro­fes­sional ac­tor he has done just about ev­ery­thing – straight drama, tele­vi­sion soap, a hugely suc­cess­ful sit­com, light ma­te­rial, darker plays, you name it. He writes, and he di­rects. He also loves a chal­lenge and they don’t get much big­ger than ap­pear­ing cen­tre stage play­ing a man who is re­garded as a na­tional trea­sure.

Reece is just about to open at the West York­shire Play­house in Un­told Sto­ries as Alan Ben­nett and ad­mits it “has been a moun­tain to climb”. The first half of the play – a deeply au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal piece in which Ben­nett re­flects on his early life – is a mono­logue with an ac­com­pa­ni­ment of a live string quar­tet. It is only in the sec­ond sec­tion that other ac­tors are in­tro­duced.

“That al­ways gives you the ‘ping-pong ef­fect’,” says Reece. “There are oth­ers with whom you bounce the di­a­logue. Learn­ing it all, well, let’s say that it is a mas­sive piece for me, in which Alan talks about his love of mu­sic, and churches…..beau­ti­fully writ­ten, of course.”

Dins­dale was once a stal­wart of the West York­shire Play­house, and was in the very first show when the new Quarry Hill build­ing opened – a re­vival of John O’Keeffe’s Wild Oats, in 1990. That was fol­lowed by Play­boy of the Western World and then The Re­venger’s Tragedy, and then there was a change to the artis­tic team, and it wasn’t un­til 2000 that Reece re­turned with Vis­it­ing Mr Green. Now he’s back again, jok­ing that “14 years is quite a long time to wait for a re­turn book­ing”.

Reece was due at the theatre later this year, but when the Play­house’s new artis­tic di­rec­tor, James Brin­ing, saw him at the Na­tional Theatre last year, he de­cided that he’d be ideal as Ben­nett. In­ter­est­ingly, go­ing back a few years, it was Ben­nett him­self who saw the young Dins­dale in a pro­duc­tion at the Royal Court and wrote a role for him in the film A Pri­vate Func­tion.

“I shall never for­get the first day that I went into the re­hearsal room. I was sur­rounded by all sorts of big ‘names’ and fa­mil­iar faces – Mag­gie Smith, Michael Palin, Denholm El­liott – and Alan came straight across, made a bee­line to me, and he in­tro­duced me to all the stars. It was an ex­traor­di­nar­ily gen­er­ous ges­ture, and I was very grate­ful to him. He’d of­ten turn up on the set, just to keep an eye on what was go­ing on, and Jim Carter, who was play­ing the po­lice in­spec­tor, chris­tened him ‘Con­ti­nu­ity Gig­gles’, be­cause he was al­ways gur­gling with laugh­ter.

“I don’t think that I’ve seen him again for the last 30 years and I’m won­der­ing if he’ll come to see this pro­duc­tion. I’d re­ally rather not know if he ac­tu­ally was in the au­di­ence. That could be a bit dis­con­cert­ing.”


‘MAS­SIVE PIECE’: Reece Dins­dale plays Alan Ben­nett in a new pro­duc­tion of the play­wright’s Un­told Sto­ries.

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