Nobody in the Hull Truck Company’s production of Alan Bennett’s The Lady In The Van is more looking forward to the curtain going up at Blackpool Grand Theatre tomorrow than Sean McKenzie.
It’s been 20 years since he last trod those boards, as Guy Masterson in Guys and Dolls when he was student at Blackpool and The Fylde College’s esteemed performing arts course – a couple of years before heading to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London
“I’m more excited about performing at the Grand than anywhere else on the tour – and mum and dad will be there to see me too,” admits Sean, who was brought up in St Annes after his family moved from Poole.
His dad – also called Sean – became an established clubland and cabaret singer and brother Liam is a member of the long established local band The Coustics. But it was fellow performing arts student Stephen Tompkinson who inspired Sean Jnr to the stage.
Stephen was a year ahead of him at St Bede’s School.
“I saw him The Plotters of Cabbage Patch Corner and wanted to do the same,” says Sean.
His first role was as a drunken pirate in The Dracula Spectacular and he even landed a back stage job at Maggie Mays on Central Pier by night whilst he worked in Theatre In Education by day.
He’s come on since then with a string of tours and repertory residencies under his belt as well as tv credits which include Birdsong, Trollies, Downton Abbey, City Central and London’s Burning.
Film credits include 24 Hour Party People, Still Crazy and Lucky Break.
“I made the decision a long time ago that acting was what I wanted to do,” he says. “It’s a tricky business but with careful planning and preparation you can survive and build up a good cv. Coming from “a long line of musicians, singers and actors” also helped his determination, he says.
In The Lady In The Van he is playing one of two versions of Alan Bennett.
“There’s two of us – the real Alan Bennett and his darker alter ego,” he says of the play which tells the heartwarming and heartbreaking story of the writer’s unusual neighbour. “The function of the second Bennett is to narrate – so you get him in all his glory over 20 years of his life.
“It’s very funny with classic one liners and Nichola McAuliffe is brilliant as The Lady.”
Despite being an honorary Lancastrian Sean had no trouble mastering Bennett’s dulcet tones.
“You can’t half way house it – he’s such an icon,” he said. “I had to do my homework – I watched videos and listened to lots of audio. It’s great to step into his suede loafers but the voice even rubs off when you are not on stage. I feel very honoured to play him.”
It also helps that he gets on well with the “other Alan” – Paul Kemp.
“We’ve got a good relationship on and off stage,” he says. “I just hope now everybody enjoys it as much as we are doing.”
As for his whether he prefers tv, film or theatre, Sean says it’s theatre every time. I love it,” he says. “It’s where real acting starts. That’s why it’s such a thrill to come back to the Grand – it’s such a great space to perform in.”