Les Dennis to star in new play The Perfect Murder at Dartford's Orchard Theatre
Les Dennis has conquered the worlds of comedy, acting and even cooking.
And at the age of 60, the star is still working hard, embarking on a UK tour with new play The Perfect Murder, which kicks off in Kent. Kathryn Tye caught up with him.
Les Dennis found fame in the 1970s as a comedian and impressionist, before going on to host ITV’s Family Fortunes for 15 years.
Since leaving the game show in 2002, he has been working hard to move away from his light entertainment persona, and establish himself as a credible actor.
With a wealth of roles on stage and screen behind him, most recently starring in West End musical Spamalot, and making a guest appearance in the Christmas edition of ITV crime series Midsomer Murders, he feels his goal has been achieved.
The Liverpudlian said: “I used to put ‘entertainer’ as the occupation on my passport, but I have done so much now, I definitely see myself as an actor. I love it, whether I’m working on stage or TV.”
His latest role is in new play The Perfect Murder, based on the bestselling crime thriller by British novelist Peter James.
It is the world premiere of the show, which also stars Claire Goose (Waking the Dead, Casualty), Gray O’Brien (Coronation Street, Peak Practice) and Steven Miller (Casualty).
Les plays Victor Smiley, who is trapped in an unhappy marriage to wife Joan. He decides there is only one way to get Joan out of his life forever, but is about to get a nasty surprise.
Les said: “I would describe the play as a kind of dark thriller but with a few laughs as well, in the style of Joe Orton. It is a black comedy.
“I had read a couple of Peter James’ books and really enjoyed them, so when they approached me about this play, it was a no-brainer. Peter is very hands-on with the show, and has become a friend. He should be there for opening night in Kent.”
After it opens in Dartford, the play will be touring 16 venues around the UK until April, with more to be announced.
Les admits it will be a wrench to leave his wife Claire and children Eleanor, five and Thomas, two, while he’s away.
“It is always hard to leave them, but it’s an actor’s life. You just have to make it work. When I’m on the road, I love to walk. I will definitely be getting out and about in Dartford, seeing the sights.”
The devoted family man has been working hard during the past couple of months rehearsing for the show, but was able to take a break to enjoy Christmas at home.
He was in charge of the festive cooking, using the skills demonstrated last year when he came runner-up to comedian Ade Edmondson in BBC show Celebrity Masterchef.
Les said: “I have always been interested in cooking, and it seems I am better than I thought! It was a great experience, but scary along the way.
"People think that we get more time than is shown on screen, but we don’t. We didn’t get any training upfront, and we met judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace on screen for the first time.
"One of the best things about being in the show, was that I got to take part in the Good Food show at London Olympia in November.
"It was a fantastic experience cooking in front of a live audience, and I met some of my heroes, like Michel Roux and Antonio Carluccio.”
While Les may have celebrated his 60th birthday in October, he has no intention of slowing down anytime soon, and says he is always eager to pursue interesting new projects.
Gwilym Lee as DS Charlie Nelson, Les Dennis as Brendan Pearce and Neil Dudgeon as DCI John Barnaby in Midsomer Murders
He would even consider taking on a game show again, if the opportunity came up.
“I loved doing Family Fortunes and I would always consider doing another game show.
“But I think they want younger presenters nowadays, although Bruce Forsyth is still doing it!”
The Perfect Murder will be at Dartford’s Orchard Theatre from Wednesday, January 8, to Saturday, January 11. Tickets from £10. Call 01322 220000.
Click here for a review of the show