BETTER known as a Saturday night TV host throughout the Eighties and Nineties, entertainer Les Dennis is carving out a new, critically-acclaimed career as a leading man both on the West End and the small screen.
Switching from comedy to acting is something Les had always wanted to do and it seems to be paying off, having recently signed a six-month contract for Coronation Street.
He says: “The comedy world is a young man’s game and the cabaret circuit thing that I did is fading now. I am happy my career has worked out so well. The biggest compliment I get is people who say they came along and thought they were watching Les Dennis but after 10 minutes forgot about him and were watching Victor.”
Victor Smiley is Les’ character in the stage-adaptation of Peter James’ novella The Perfect Murder. Victor is married to Joan, played by Claire Goose (Waking the Dead, Casualty), and, after 20 years of marriage, has resorted to some murderous plans.
Les explains: “He is plotting to commit the perfect murder but he has not taken into consideration the fact that Joan has plans of her own. It is a black comedy and it is funny because of the blackness of this couple who are plotting a murder.”
Perhaps best-known for presenting TV gameshow Family Fortunes, Les began his career as a comedian.
He said: “Acting is something I have always done alongside comedy. Some people think comics might not make good actors. “Comics have more skills than people think they have. Acting is totally different, you are part of a company and you have to rely on others.
“As a stand-up you can go off piste a bit and do what you want. You cannot do that in a play. You have to stay in focus and I love the discipline of that.” In the midst of the tour for the crime thriller, Les got the call to take on the part of Michael Rodwell, a petty criminal who shows up in Britain’s best-loved street next month. Les says: “I was a massive fan. I was so thrilled to have got Corrie.”
Micheal Rodwell will appear on our screens at the end of March, burgling a home on Coronation Street. He is caught and will later return to the Street in June.
The role is something Les, who turned 60 last October, relishes. He says: “I live in Chester now so it is fantastic to be able to live at home. I love touring but it is hard on family life. Going in to Corrie means I will be home seven days a week and spend time with my young kids.”
l The Perfect Murder will run from March 10 to 15 at the Wycombe Swan. For tickets go to www.wycombeswan.co.uk or call the ticket office on 01494 512000.