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A nephew living the dream

MARK Benton was last in Birmingham a couple of years ago, not that you would have recognised him as he donned his best frock playing Edna Turnblad to critical acclaim in the touring production of Hairspray

And he returns at the start of another tour as Inspector Andre Thibault, the chief of police and unofficial bodyguard of conman Lawrence.

He said: “I’m really enjoying it. It’s good fun. The script is great and there are some great songs in it.”

Benton is a familiar face on television with a host of roles, including maths teacher Daniel Chalk in Waterloo Road and most recently as the host of BBC daytime quiz show The Edge while in 2013 he reached week 10 in Strictly Come Dancing which is no mean feat, as well as showing some rather mean feet, so to speak.

He was also, for a while the TV face of thmark bentone Nationwide Building Society in a series of ads and has appeared in films such as Mike Leigh’s Career Girls, Anthony Minghella’s Breaking and Entering and Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus.

“I have been very lucky, lucky to do a lot of really different stuff, I met Jerry (Mitchell, the Producer) originally for the role and we had a chat about it but I wasn’t free because of Strictly and the Strictly tour. When it came up again I just wanted to do it because it’s just so much fun, and I love the role of Andre because it has a bit of everything, and he gets the love story in Act II so it is great fun.

Mark Benton, in Birmingham to play Inspector Andre Thibault

“I enjoy comedy but I enjoy drama. I have had parts I have hated in comedy and in drama and had jobs I have loved in both, Luckily this is not one of the hated ones.”

Born in Guisborough in the North Riding, Benton’s career in acting followed a family tradition. He said: “My uncle was an actor and I wanted to be like him, and then I did as much amateur stuff as I could, went to drama school and the rest is history.

His first acting experiences came with amateur roles in nearby Middlesbrough, including roles with Middlesbrough Youth Theatre and “anything I could get into just to satisfy my need to act.”

Benton, with an impressive CV of TV, films, radio and stage behind him, still has a soft spot and respect for the world of amateur theatre where he first learned his trade. “I have seen amateur productions where I have thought certain actors could go and be professionals – the hard thing is going off to do it.

“The difficulty is being able to leave everything behind and jump in. It’s hard when you start, hard to get jobs, hard to get an agent. People might have a good job and it’s hard to say goodbye to that.”

“It’s not any easy business a lot of the time because you are constantly dealing with rejection and I work very hard on not being bitter about the whole thing; I still love it and I still get excited when you get a good job . . . like this.

“We are doing the tech at the moment and I can’t wait to start. You get to a point where you are ready for an audience, and we are ready for one now.

“Acting can be hard work but it depends on the job, sometimes it can be a joy. We are very lucky because our job is our dream, and when it’s good there is nothing better.”

Roger Clarke 

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels starring Michael Praed, Noel Sullivan, Carley Stenson and Mark Benton runs at the New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham from Tuesday 5 may to Saturday 16 May before embarking on a national tour

Tour Details - http://www.scoundrelsontour.com/ 


Carley Stenson - following the passion Noel Sullivan - from Arias to Alex

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