Close-up: David Troughton

The actor turning Alan Bennett's 'disaster' into a West End triumph
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The Independent Culture

No wonder Enjoy is about to make a confident transfer to the West End – it's already packed out houses on tour, stars David Troughton and Alison Steadman, has the critics purring and bears that stamp of success, "by Alan Bennett".

Yet, when first produced in 1980, the play was, recalled Bennett, "a disaster", limping off stage after seven weeks. "Audiences thought, 'This isn't what we want from Alan Bennett.' It's a weird play, a bittersweet comedy about being watched," says Troughton. In it, he and Steadman are a couple living in the last back-to-back in Leeds, which is due to be demolished. But before they take up residence in their new flat, the couple catch the eye of a sociologist, whereupon life becomes a little odd for them.

It's a welcome lead role for Troughton, a stalwart of British character acting: for connoisseurs of cult TV drama, the 58-year-old is still treasured for his portrayal of the manic Bob Buzzard in A Very Peculiar Practice. "The writing was so poignant, so funny – and it was one of the few anti-Thatcher series," says Troughton. "I'm not sure the BBC realised what gold it had in its hands."

At the moment, Troughton is dividing his time between Enjoy and filming Casualty 1909. And as the son of the second Doctor Who, Patrick Troughton, he's been keeping a close eye on the Time Lord. He declares David Tennant "fantastic" and while it's too early to say anything about Matt Smith, he says he understands the pressure he'll be under to make the part his own. "Dad was the first to regenerate into the new doctor," remembers Troughton, "and he turned the role on its head."

'Enjoy' previews at the Gielgud , London W1 (0844 482 5130) , from Tuesday

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