Review: Reluctant raconteur Reece Dinsdale in his element at Harrogate Theatre

Reece's Pieces saw one of Britain's most gifted actors of the last 40 years return to the stage in Harrogate last night after two years of lockdown to deliver a brilliant evening of anecdotes and revelations.

By Graham Chalmers
Friday, 28th January 2022, 5:06 pm
Award-winning actor/director Reece Dinsdale who performed his one-man show Reece's Pieces at Harrogate Theatre.
Award-winning actor/director Reece Dinsdale who performed his one-man show Reece's Pieces at Harrogate Theatre.

After telling the audience gathered in Harrogate Theatre's lovely main auditorium that his memory isn't that good, partly thanks to having crafted one of the best stage and screen CVs of his generation, Reece Dinsdale sure has a lot to say.

Bathed in blue light on a chair facing tonight's MC, writer and radio presenter Bob Fisher, who is more friend than interrogator, once Reece starts to open up, there's no stopping him, the reels of his experiences and knowledge spooling out like the longest piece of wool.

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No props are required as the West Yorkshire-born Dinsdale, son of a miner, takes a journey through a lengthy career whose roots lie in that moment as a lad aged 12 on stage in the school play who suddenly realised with excitement and shock "now here's something I feel comfortable with and am good at."

Matter of fact in tone, impressively self-deprecating, at the age of 62, Dinsdale still looks remarkably boyish in his blue jeans and open-neck gingham shirt and retains an endearing hop-skipping enthusiasm.

Despite all his successes and awards since graduating from the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 1980, Reece is not someone to act like a star.

He admits to having been shy and uncomfortable off stage for many years, despite the awards, the hit TV shows, the films and, more recently, the directing.

After all this time in the public eye, he prides himself as being quietly resistant at all times to the passing charms of celebrity and fame.

But that doesn't mean he doesn't understand the ways of showbiz or that he can't drop names like a champion.

Revealing and funny personal encounters with the likes of Peter Ustinov, Alan Bennett, David Bowie and Jack Lemmon warm the audience, many of whom are sporting face masks after two years of pandemic.

From roles in landmark BAFTA-winning TV drama Threads, through Minder, Silent Witness, Spooks, Life on Mars, to Joe McIntyre in Coronation Street and Paul Ashdale in Emmerdale to the hugely popular comedy series Home to Roost which, at its peak in the mid-1980s, saw Reece's comic turn on TV opposite the late John Thaw watched by 14 million people, the stories tumble out in wonderfully meandering tangents, brilliant and funny pen portraits delivered by a professional who is also a fan.

Despite all the glamour he's come across, Reece says the stage remains his greatest love of all and, when it comes to theatre, he is no lightweight.

The Harrogate Theatre Patron has excelled in leading roles at the National Theatre, the RSC, the Royal Exchange in Manchester, the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds and more, leaving him as someone hard to pigeon hole, someone who won't sit still, except, perhaps, for tonight.

Ambitious as he was as a young man, Reece says now his one wish is to keep on working, to be allowed to keep on being creative on a daily basis.

"My biggest achievement is surviving and still getting offered jobs. Not everyone does."

Towards the end of the show, this Harrogate Advertiser reporter asks him whether acting is something you can just pick up or is it a craft to be learned.?

It's a silly question, really, for Reece is clearly a workaholic. He is an actor who puts the hours in; who does his research.

As recently as 2015 when he played the title role of Richard III at The West Yorkshire Playhouse, he says he learnt the script before he had even arrived for the first day's rehearsals.

"There's no substitute for hard work," Reece adds, perhaps with an echo of his late father who went down the pits at 14 and who in his dying days was the inspiration for Reece to step into the limelight as himself at last, a last request which has eventually resulted in this enthralling and hugely entertaining evening.

Reece's Pieces has been billed as an informal affair with the audience invited to chip in whenever they felt like it.

Not that this nice guy, who has ended up so often playing baddies, needs any prompting.

Perhaps, Dinsdale is simply a natural raconteur like some of the heroes he's met along the way?

The 90 minutes whizz by and there is a feeling that tonight's show is merely the tip of the iceberg of memories well worth diving into more deeply should the remarkably honest and likably down to earth Dinsdale have the time or inclination to be more 'selfishly' himself.

It may have been unintended but the end result of Reece's Pieces adds up to something more complete - a fascinating and almost fully-formed portrait of the man and his profession, a life in the arts lived well and to the full.