Of Mice and Men still a tale for our times

Dudley Sutton (Candy) in Of Mice And Men

Dudley Sutton (Candy) in Of Mice And Men

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Dudley Sutton. Some may struggle to place the name but most will recognise that cherubic face.

He’s been one of the great British character actors for nearly 60 years. In fact, strike ‘character’. He is one of our great British actors.

Kristian Phillips (Lennie) and William Rodell (George) in Of Mice And Men

Kristian Phillips (Lennie) and William Rodell (George) in Of Mice And Men

Dudley was the baby faced biker in The Leather Boys, one of the seminal 60s kitchen sink dramas, at the height of the mods and rockers sub culture, a gateway film for Britain’s gay culture.

That was back in 1963, his big screen breakthrough six years after starting out in a ‘very left wing’ theatre company in the East End.

The actor, probably best known as Tinker in TV’s long running Lovejoy, later starred alongside Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave in Ken Russell’s The Devils in 1971, banned by watch committees across the land, including Blackpool’s

At 80 he could be forgiven for going down the soap opera path but his heart’s in theatre even with the rigours of a national tour of one of the great American classics, Of Mice and Men opens tonight at the Grand Theatre and runs until Saturday and marks the 20th anniversary of the Touring Consortium Theatre Company .

John Steinbeck’s poignant tale of migrant workers eking out a living in a broken land rings almost as true today as it did.

Dudley. who insists he doesn’t “work for a living”, unless you count learning lines “which has always been a misery for me,” plays old timer Candy , only marginally less decrepit than the dog which is his constant companion.

He sees Of Mice and Men as an “intensely moral play, a modern tragedy based on economics. The play was set in the ‘20s when union strikes were broken up with shotguns and pickaxes so you got all those great protest songs that came out of that time. It’s as relevant today as it ever was and I can see why schools have had the book on the curricula for so long. It was an extraordinary time in American history. There will always be a struggle between capital and labour.”

And while he’s up against the ‘aw’ factor with his canine co-star he relishes the awe factor of his welcome return to the Grand. “It’s a lovely theatre – a beautiful old Frank Matchum building.”