Reece Dinsdale takes on the lead role in a new version of an Ibsen classic
The greatest compliment I can pay Reece Dinsdale is that I reckon you could easily walk past him in the street and miss him,
He seems so ordinary, so normal, so everyman. You can imagine him easily blending in with the crowd while watching his beloved Huddersfield Town FC.
What is particularly striking about this ability to disappear is that as the characters he plays he is unforgettable.
It was when the Normanton-born actor and director played Alan Bennett at the West Yorkshire Playhouse – more of which later – that I first realised that he has the ability that separates truly great actors: he can shape shift.
Likewise Richard III, it is as though the role subsumed him entirely. He didn’t just play Richard – he was the Hunchback king. It’s a skill that is about to be tested to its limits in a new version of an Ibsen play that sees Dinsdale carry pretty much every single scene.
The play is (the fall of ) The Master Builder and is a new version of Henrik Ibsen’s The Master Builder written by acclaimed playwright Zinnie Harris.
“It’s based on the original, but James (Brining, the play’s director) along with Zinnie took the original strands and ran with them,” says Dinsdale.
“It has the same characters, the same themes. There is a particular strand of the play that we’ve taken and run with and importantly, we’ve set it in West Yorkshire in 2017.”
The first time West Yorkshire audiences saw Dinsdale on the stage of the Playhouse was in the theatre’s very first production on Quarry Hill. When the theatre moved to its current home in 1990, the first production was Wild Oats and it featured the classically trained Dinsdale in the cast.
He has spoken previously about the fact that his father urged him to take the role, telling him it would ‘be like opening the batting for Yorkshire’.
Following that role he became something of a fixture at the theatre, but his renewed relationship with it in recent years is one that has more formality to it.
Named associate artist, he was the first acting associate of the theatre, a role he clearly relishes as it gives him an official link to a theatre that clearly means much to him.
He renewed his relationship with the theatre in 2014 when he played Alan Bennett in a dramatisation of the writer’s diaires in Untold Stories. It was in this role that I first understood his great skill. Dinsdale was staggeringly good.
It was like watching Bennett on stage and Dinsdale provided a performance that went so far beyond imitation it was impossible to tear your eyes away.
He went on to play Richard III and now comes Ibsen. He and Playhouse artistic director James Brining had been discussing which play to collaborate on next.
“I suggested Ibsen’s play An Enemy of the People, he suggested The Master Builder,” says Dinsdale.
“We made a deal; I read the one he suggested, he read the one I suggested. When I finished it I said I love it, I want to do it and he said that’s great, but we’re not doing that, we’re doing a different version.”
The version is the one currently in rehearsal with a script by Zinnie Harris, an acclaimed writer whose work and star have been steadily on the rise for some time now.
“This version doffs a cap to the original, but people shouldn’t come expecting to see that play. Ours is, however, bleak and very, very funny.”
At West Yorkshire Playhouse September 30 to October 21.