Comedy actor appears in a darker kind of show

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Les Dennis is delighted with the way his career is going. Fascinating, enjoyable and challenging jobs keep coming his way.

“It seems that people are knocking at my door at the moment,” says Les who even turned up in a Midsomer Murder just recently.

On stage he’s enjoyed stints in the musicals Hairspray, Chicago and Legally Blonde.

Now, hot foot from 15 weeks in Spamalot, he’s embarking on something rather different, with the stage adaptation of the Peter James novella The Perfect Murder (Theatre Royal Brighton, Monday, January 27-Saturday, February 1, and The Mayflower, Southampton, Tuesday, February 4-Saturday, February 8).

It’s been the first year in six that he hasn’t done panto. With murder on his mind, he’s been concerned with far weightier issues.

“I got offered this play,” Les says, “and I just thought that it would be great to do. I have done quite a few straight plays, but this one offered something different – and with the great Peter James himself in rehearsals as well. So no pressure there, then! But he was good. Very good. He said that there were no sacred cows. Anyone could suggest anything.

“It was originally a very short story, and I was already a big fan of his other stuff. When they adapted it for the stage, they decided to bring in Peter James’ detective Roy Grace, really just to give it the stage structure that it needed, and there are other things that have been added to make it into the play. The actors have found it very easy, very easy to say, and there is a humour there as well in a very black way.”

Les is playing Victor who has been married to Joan for 20 years: “When they were first together, they were very happy. She thought that he was going places. She thought he was the older man that was going to look after her. And he too had hopes and dreams, but they didn’t come to fruition.”

And so it is that they start to plot murder... each other’s.

“He is obsessed with murder mysteries, with Agatha Christies, Poirots. All the great detectives he is obsessed with. And so he starts to plan the perfect murder.”

It’s another great challenge for Les who started his career as a comic on the circuit, in the days before anyone had come up with the term ‘stand-up’.

“It was the old-style variety. I was doing the working men’s clubs, the summer seasons. If you didn’t get your audience in the first five minutes, you would be struggling to get through.”

For some years he enjoyed a successful comedy partnership with fellow impressionist Dustin Gee, which in turn led to a series of their own, The Laughter Show. Sadly, the partnership was cut short by Dustin’s death on January 3, 1986,

“Dustin was massively important for me. We were riding high at the time, but then I lost not only my partner in comedy, but also a very great friend. He was fantastic.”

He’s often in Les’s thoughts: “Life could have gone a completely-different way. We would have been together as a double act, but I suspect that we would always have had out solo projects.

At Les’s recent 60th birthday celebrations, he was delighted to be joined by Dustin’s sister.

“Even with the solo projects, I am sure we would still have been mates.”