True son of steel returns

Ian Reddington as Chris Steele in Jack Steele and Family. at Crucible Theatre''Photo Robert Day.JPG
Ian Reddington as Chris Steele in Jack Steele and Family. at Crucible Theatre''Photo Robert Day.JPG

For Sheffield actor Ian Reddington the offer of a part in John Godber’s new play, Jack Steele and Family, at the Crucible was a no brainer.

It represented so many different connections in the life and career of the actor still best known as Tricky Dickey from EastEnders.

For a start there is the fact that it is directed by Neil Sissons, “That goes back 38 years to when Neil and I belonged to a youth theatre that the city council set up in a derelct building in the city centre for kids who wouldn’t otherwise have that kind of opportunity.

“And then they booked the Crucible for a week and got Glen Walford to direct Peter Weiss’s Marat/Sade and I played Harald. I had never done anything like that before but from that I became an actor.”

Despite a long career this is the first time since that he has appeared at the Crucible. “I’ve toured to the Lyceum with Frank Finlay in The Woman in Black and I even performed at the Leadmill in the days when they did theatre, but have never set foot on the Crucible stage since,” he reflects.

Then there is the playwright himself. “I have known John Godber for a long time but it was only last year I worked with him for the first time when he updated Bouncers and that was a great experience.

“I think this is his best-ever play,” declares the actor. “It’s a classic family drama.”

Jack Steele is an ex-steelworker with two sons, one an academic at Hallam University and the other a successful property developer in Spain. They are reunited for a family gathering and sparks flie.

“Within that lies the whole idea of identity and what Sheffield means to you and the question of heritage now most of the steel mills are silent,” says Reddington who plays the son who moved away.

He himself hasn’t lived in Sheffield since going off to RADA in London in 1976. “It’s been quite emotional for me returning. I reflect a lot or the things that are in the play.”

Not that Reddington has lost touch with his home city, not least his ardent support for Sheffield Wednesday (something else he shares with director Neil Sissons).

The production of Jack Steele and Family is a collaboration between Sheffield Hallam University and Sheffield Theatres which was another draw for Reddington.

In recent years he has taken time to help young people, through Godber and Sissons working with some of the Hallam students and has also been involved with the Carney Academy of Performing Arts in Sheffield and with the National Student Drama Festival .

“It’s been interesting to find out what kids’ take is on theatre and to see how they benefit from the opportunity of appearing with professionals. Very different from when I started,” he says.

Review Jack Steele & Family