Fourteen months ago, actor and director Reece Dinsdale was all set to take his first major step in public as new patron of Harrogate Theatre... then lockdown arrived.
Reeces’s Pieces was meant to be the moment this award-winning heavyweight of British film, TV and theatre emerged from the shadows in a joyful evening full of stories and anecdotes inspired by the advice of his dying father - “be yourself”.
The pandemic which has hit the arts so badly over the last two years may have postponed that moment but next week Reece’s adopted hometown will finally get the chance to enjoy the show that means so much to a man who has seen and done it all in an incredible 40-year career - from the RSC to Emmerdale - and now wants to share that knowledge.
“I wouldn’t have done the show without my father. I’ve always been very comfortable in the emotions and voice of someone else as an actor but I’ve never had great belief in myself as a person,” Reece admits just after walking his dog in Harrogate where this son of West Yorkshire now lives.
“I’ve been in the business since the late 1970s now and I’ve learnt a few things and met a lot of amazing people.
“My father’s dying words to me in 2019 were to be myself and not hide my light under a bushell.
“It was time not to hide. It was time to pass on some of what I’ve learned - but in an entertaining way.”
Having trialled an early version of Reece’s Pieces online, attracting tens of thousands of viewers, the actor who first rose to fame in 1985 as John Thaw’s teenage son in the sitcom Home To Roost, says the aim of the show in the main auditorium of Harrogate Theatre next Thursday, January 27 is to see where his thoughts take him.
“I didn’t want a script for the show, I wanted it to be natural. That way it can go from stars I’ve known to mental health issues.
“I’ve invited BBC Radio Teeside presenter Bob Fisher to be host but he can ask me anything he likes.
“There will also be a chance for the audience to ask questions for the last half an hour.
“It’s going to be great fun.”
The thoughtful 62-year-old Dinsdale is a strong supporter of theatre in his native Yorkshire and in 2015 was the first actor to be named Associate Artist at The West Yorkshire Playhouse, since rebranded Leeds Playhouse.
If anything, his admiration for the theatre in his adopted Harrogate has grown during the trials suffered by the arts during the pandemic.
“Living in Harrogate as I do, I was absolutely delighted to be invited to become a patron of this magnificent theatre.
“The place is in very good hands under its chief executive David Bown who is terrific and has steered Harrogate Theatre through thick and thin.
“The whole team cares enormously about what they do and do a great job for the town.
“The arts has had such a tough time during Covid.
“It’s lovely that Harrogate Theatre got such a sizable grant to help it survive but not everyone has been given that sort of support.”
Despite his youthful spirit, Reece’s roots in acting go back to the boldest days of British theatre in the late 1970s as a student at Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.
His all-encompassing CV has left him with plenty to talk about in a career which shows no signs of slowing down and has seen Reece appearing in seemingly every hit British TV drama series of the last four decades, working on stage and on the big screen with everyone from Kenneth Branagh to Peter Ustinov, Jimmy McGovern to John Thaw.
Although proud of his successful forays into directing, Reece is also one of the few actors who can boast major roles in both Coronation Street and Emmerdale.
“My greatest strength has been my versatility,” he says. “John Thaw once said to me ‘always keep them guessing, always come out of a different corner’. I’m very proud that at the age of 62, that I know what I will be doing for the next 12 months.
“Even in better times this business is brutal. It will chew you up and spit you out. It’s merciless. I’ve lost all the ego and professional ambition I had when I was young. But I haven’t lost my passion for acting and directing or my love of creativity. Who knows, give me time and I might turn up in EastEnders at some point!”
The excitement Reece felt for theatre as a 20-year-old drama student is still there today - as are his nerves.
“I’m quite nervous in a way about Reece’s Pieces. Living in Harrogate means I will probably know whoever turns up for the show!”
Reece’s Pieces, Harrogate Theatre, 7.30pm, Thursday, January 27.
For tickets, go to: www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk
Reece Dinsdale: A glittering career in brief
Born in Normanton in 1959, Reece Dinsdale’s CV since 1980 would fill a book.
As a TV actor Reece has appeared in: Home To Roost, Minder, Threads, Poirot, Silent Witness, Spooks, Life On Mars, Emmerdale, Coronation Street and much more.
As a film actor, he has appeared in A Private Function, I.D. ,Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet and more.
Major stage roles have seen Reece perform at The National Theatre, The Royal Shakespeare Company and The Royal Exchange Manchester.
He has also directed on stage and screen including Jimmy McGovern’s acclaimed BBC TV drama series Moving On.