Alun Armstrong is an English actor and singer. Armstrong grew up in County Durham in North East England. He first became interested in acting through Shakespeare productions at his grammar school. Since his career began in the early 1970s, he has played, in his words, "the full spectrum of characters from the grotesque to musicals... I always play very colourful characters, often a bit crazy, despotic, psychotic."
His numerous credits include several different Charles Dickens adaptations and the eccentric ex-detective Brian Lane in New Tricks. Armstrong is also an accomplished stage actor who spent nine years with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He originated the role of Thénardier in the London production of Les Misérables and he won an Olivier Award for playing the title role in Sweeney Todd.
Early and personal life[edit | edit source]
Alun Armstrong was born in Annfield Plain, near Stanley, County Durham. His father was a coal miner and both his parents were Methodist lay preachers. He attended Annfield Plain Junior School and then went on to Consett Grammar School, where a teacher inspired him to try acting. In the lower sixth, he played Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew – a role he would later perform with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
He took part in the National Youth Theatre summer school in 1964, but his background and his northern accent made him feel out of place. Armstrong auditioned for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art but was not accepted. He instead studied fine art at Newcastle University. He found the course pretentious and felt that he did not fit in, and he was expelled after two years because he stopped attending classes.
Armstrong had jobs with a bricklayer and as a gravedigger before he decided to try acting again. He started out by working as an assistant stage manager at the Cambridge Arts Theatre. He then went on to a Theatre in Education company affiliated with the Sheffield Repertory Theatre, and he performed in several Radio 4 dramas.
Alun Armstrong and his wife Sue have three sons: Tom, Joe and Dan. Joe Armstrong is also an actor. Father and son played older and younger versions of the same character in the 2010 BBC drama A Passionate Woman. and they played Northumberland and his son Hotspur in the 2012 BBC adaptation of Henry IV. Dan Armstrong is a musician in the band Clock Opera. Alun Armstrong appeared in the music video for their song "The Lost Buoys."
In July 2009, Armstrong was awarded two honorary degrees in recognition of his contributions to the arts. He received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of East Anglia and an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from the University of Sunderland.
He supports AFC Wimbledon, as does his character in New Tricks.
Works[edit | edit source]
Theatre[edit | edit source]
- Much Ado About Nothing (1979–80) as Dogberry
- Les Misérables (1985, 1995) as Thénardier
- The Winter's Tale as Leontes
- The Crucible as John Proctor
- Sweeney Todd as Sweeney Todd
- My Fair Lady as Alfred Doolittle
Film & Television[edit | edit source]
- The Mummy Returns as Baltus Hafez
- Van Helsing as Cardinal Jinette
- Oliver Twist as Magistrate Fang
- Eragon as Uncle Garrow
- When I'm 64 as Jim
- David Copperfield as Daniel Peggotty