Heage actor lands an enigmatic role

Actor Sean Mckenzie
Actor Sean Mckenzie

He has seen a career that has taken him from the Chatworth Estate to the grounds of Downton Abbey - but now Sean Mckenzie is facing his toughest role yet.

The Heage actor is in the midst of rehearsals for a nationwide tour of the Alan Bennett play The Lady in the Van, in which he is cast as the enigmatic playwright himself.

Actor Sean Mckenzie

Actor Sean Mckenzie

The autobiographical piece tells of Bennett’s relationship with the itinerant Miss Shepherd, who lived in a van in his driveway from the early 1970s until her death in 1989.

And this week, Sean, whose first acting job saw him play Nick Bottom in a Midsommer Night’s Dream 17 years ago, is glad to be back on the stage again.

“It’s a great piece, very, very funny and very, very, moving.” He said.

“And It’s a great honour to play Bennett. He’s still alive, but he’s quite hard to imitate.”

The Lady in the Van will run for 12 weeks , stopping across the UK, but the nearest it will get to Derbyshire will be in Sheffield and Leicester.

Sean said he is yet to meet playwright Bennett himself, but studied for his role by listening to and watching countless clips of him on Youtube.

“To play someone like that is difficult,” he said. “The Alan Bennett everybody knows is not necessarily the real Alan Bennett.”

Sean, who recently starred in the BBC adaptation of Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong says this could be his biggest role yet.

Since training to be an actor at the Royal Academy of Dance and Drama in London, the Heage man, now 41, has taken on a variety of characters.

When asked about his career highlights, Sean ranked his turn as the character Bernard in the Channel 4 comedy Shameless as one of his high moments.

But mainly he is just glad to still be doing what he loves.

“It’s a fickle business this - but if you work hard and get a bit lucky, you can live the dream really.”