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David Fleeshman - My acting dynasty

PUBLISHED: 11:15 09 September 2014 | UPDATED: 20:41 09 September 2014

David Fleeshman as Arthur and Manchester's Peter Ash as Billy, in War Horse tour

David Fleeshman as Arthur and Manchester's Peter Ash as Billy, in War Horse tour

Archant

David Fleeshman, aged 62, from Woodford, has played such great stage roles as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, and a huge number of TV parts. Married to Sue Jenkins, of Coronation Street and Brookside fame, and with all three of their children following them into the profession, David is the patriarch of a drama dynasty

David Fleeshman with wife Sue JenkinsDavid Fleeshman with wife Sue Jenkins

Q. You’ve been on tour playing Arthur Narracott in War Horse for a year now, with a stint in South Africa yet to come. How have you enjoyed it?

A. The word ‘phenomenal’ is used too often, but in respect of this production it’s true. At virtually every theatre we’ve visited, tickets have been sold out before we got there. Not only that, we get, 99 per cent of the time, a full standing ovation at the end of the show. However tired an actor may be, to have that kind of response is quite amazing and so uplifting. I’ve been in this business 40 years and never been in a show that gets that kind of response every night.

Michael Morpurgo tells how when the National Theatre approached him about putting his book on stage, he laughed and said ‘What are you going to do, stick a pantomime horse on stage?’. But when they got together with Handspring Puppet Company, which is the inspiration for Joey, the horse, they saw what could be achieved with puppets.

It’s something an audience have perhaps never experienced before: a large ensemble work, wonderful music, brilliant set, a pertinent story about the First World War - an anti-war piece of theatre - but, first and foremost they fall in love with what is essentially a wicker basket.

Q. While you’ve been in War Horse, your wife Sue has been touring for much of the year in 20th Century Boy. How has that worked out?

A. We’ve been following each other round the country. I came out of Sunderland, then she came in. I had a week off, so we stayed together in Sunderland. Then we came to Cardiff and she came to Cardiff in the other theatre at the same time. We bump into each other every weekend.

When the kids were little neither of us toured. We’d never take a theatre job that kept us away from home. All three have left home and just when we thought we would wind down and do the garden, suddenly these amazing offers came out of the blue. We said, let’s do it. We’ve made it work perfectly. We seem to spend more time together when we are touring than sometimes when we’re at home because each weekend becomes special, and we’ve seen a lot of wonderful places around the country.

Q Home for you is Woodford. what drew you there?

A. We were living in York, and Sue got a long-term contract in Coronation Street. We had to move close to the studio, because we were expecting our first child, Emily. We headed towards Bramhall where a lot of the Coronation Street cast at that time were living. Then a few years later we moved to Woodford. We nip down to Alderley Edge where there are some nice restaurants we use. I like Knutsford...there are so many places in Cheshire and even after all these years we’re still getting to know them.

Q. And now the whole family is in the acting business. How did that happen?

A. I don’t come from a dramatic family and nor does Sue, and we never pushed our three offspring into the business, they all instinctively followed us, which is flattering really. But they are in different walks of the profession. Richard is a great musical talent, and he has done lots of musical theatre, toured with Elton John and done a lot of singing, although he’s a great actor and he’s developing that more. He doesn’t just want to be concentrating on musical theatre.

Our youngest Rosie has just graduated from drama school and is very interested in classical theatre. We’d love her to end up at the RSC or the Globe or something. Our eldest, Emily, runs our Cheshire-based drama school The Actors’ Lab. It’s professional training on a part-time basis.

Q. ‘Don’t put your daughter on the stage’, the old song said. It’s not the easiest way to earn a living, is it?

A. It is the most precarious profession - even worse than when I began. However talented you are, you do need a phenomenal amount of luck as well.

 

 

The National Theatre’s touring production of War Horse comes to The Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, from September 24 to October 11. War Horse is currently at the Lowry, Salford Quays until September 20.

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