Leslie enjoying life back on the boards

Leslie Grantham.
Leslie Grantham.

Plenty of young actors are just desperate to get into the soaps, desperate to star in EastEnders or Coronation Street.

But first a word of warning from the man who created Dirty Den, the most celebrated soap character of them all.

Leslie Grantham well understands today’s obsession with getting famous quickly. But Leslie

makes the point that he could never have become TV’s Den if he hadn’t had a decent grounding in the theatre first.

The theatre is where you learn your craft – and it’s where Leslie is now earning his crust, enjoying a prolonged stint on stage in various productions.

The latest is Death By Fatal Murder by Peter Gordon at The Capitol, Horsham (Thursday, September 29-Saturday, October 1, 7.30pm).

“It’s great. The stage is what all actors used to want to do. Now you get the youngsters wanting to be in the soaps, and I think ‘yeah, the reason things like Coronation Street and EastEnders are all so successful is because the majority of the actors in them had had a theatrical background.”

Actors these days who head into a soap first and then hit the stage stand out: “You’ve got to learn how to stand on the stage. You’ve got to learn how to deliver the lines to the audience.”

That’s how Leslie started out: “TV is great and doing commercials is great because you need the money. But I had never really wanted to be in a soap. I had been offered a couple over the years, but I just felt that I didn’t want to become a matinee idol, as my wife put it.”

But then through past contacts the new soap EastEnders came up, with Leslie tempted into it as Den on the understanding that it would be the perfect part and just for a dozen episodes. Perfect it certainly was.

As for the number of episodes, well, the rest is history.

“It turned out to be phenomenal. I think I got the plumb part. Thanks to the great writing and possibly something that I brought to it, it was great.”

But for the moment and for the past few years, his focus has been the stage, in partnership with prolific producer Ian Dickens.

Death by Fatal Murder sees Leslie share the stage with Richard Gibson (‘Allo, ‘Allo’s Herr Otto Flick), Michelle Hardwick (Lizzie Hopkirk in The Royal), Katy Manning (Dr Who’s Jo Grant-companion to the late great Jon Pertwee) and Ian Dickens regular David Callister.

In the piece, Pratt is back. Inspector Pratt’s record of crime detection at Bagshot House is not enviable. In his previous visit, the body count mounted disastrously as he looked on, helpless and hopeless. Now he is back and, as usual, chaos reigns supreme.

During the course of his latest investigations, Pratt meets the new owner of the house, Nancy Allwright, and soon he is embroiled in more mystery, aided and abetted by Miss Maple and Constable Thomkins. Upper-crust Ginny and Italian gigolo, Enzo, help with enquiries, but danger soon looms with an unexpected arrival and a frightening suggestion by Welsh busybody and clairvoyant, Blodwyn Morgan.

Tickets on 01403 750220 or www.thecapitolhorsham.com.