LES Dennis is a bit of a jack of all trades in the show business world.
Over the last 40 years, he’s done everything from stand-up to presenting, comedy to straight acting, musical roles and even some reality TV – he was in Celebrity Big Brother and came joint second in Celebrity Masterchef.
Fresh from a 15-week West End stint as King Arthur in Spamalot, his latest role sees him take on the black comedy thriller The Perfect Murder, coming to Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre in February.
But despite his varied career, Dennis says he was a shy child.
“Show business seemed like a grand and glamorous world but being on stage was quite a big stretch for me,” he says.
“I started on the working men’s club circuit and it was tough; it was a hard training ground but then I got on TV.”
Dennis’ big break came when he won New Faces in 1974 and he started to get jobs on television, in comedy sketch programmes such as the Russ Abbott Show.
He branched out into variety theatre from 1978 but acting didn’t come until much later on.
“I did Me and My Girl in 1991,” he said. “I just knew I wanted to act. I love the immediacy.
“With The Perfect Murder, it’s a new play so none of us knew how it would be received.
“You wonder ‘are they going to laugh? Will they find it tense?’ It’s not until you get to opening night you find out.
“Every night, every audience, you get a different reaction and the reaction so far has been really good.
“We’re building on it every night and getting tighter.”
The show is based on best-selling crime author Peter James’ book about a couple who have been married for 20 years and have reached crisis point.
Dennis plays Victor, who plans to get rid of his wife once and for all by committing the perfect murder, but he could be in for a nasty surprise.
“I read the script and I loved it,” he says.
“It’s not a whodunit, because that’s clear, it’s more a cat and mouse thriller.
“Peter James has been on board all the way through and we have a fantastic cast.”
Dennis has proven he’s not just a born entertainer, but a great actor too – last year scooping the Liverpool Post’s Best Actor award for his performance in Jigsy, a one man play about a comedian.
Next he’d love to tackle some Shakespeare or Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, but he hasn’t completely forgotten his past.
“I do enjoy getting up in front of an audience as myself,” he says. “If I got offered a really good gameshow, like The Chase or Pointless, I’d do it.”
And despite being dubbed Les Miserables for a few years that were dogged by widely reported personal problems, Dennis is feeling happy and has no regrets.
“People say I must wish I hadn’t done Big Brother, and I probably did at the time but little doors turn into big doors and if I hadn’t done it I wouldn’t have got Extras with Ricky Gervais,” he says.
“You’ve got to see everything going forward; if you cancel something out you wouldn’t be where you are.”
* The Perfect Murder is at the Mayflower from February 4 to 8. For tickets call 02380 711811 or visit mayflower.org.uk.