His Breakthrough Role


Our short story of the week is a story about an actor by Brindley Hallam Dennis.

Brindley Hallam Dennis lives on the edge of England and writes short stories, many of which have been broadcast, published and performed. Some have won prizes. He writes to be read aloud, but is uncomfortable with the ‘p’ word.

He began writing at school in the 1960s. Took a fifteen-year break (writer’s block), and circa 1998 resumed, writing his first short stories as Brindley Hallam Dennis. He writes in other genres (poetry, plays and essays… mostly on the short story) as Mike Smith. Neither is really a pen name… but one is pre and the other post adoption. He doesn’t mind people knowing this, if it interests them.

His Breakthrough Role follows a man with an astounding gift.


Herbert Wubbins wasn’t the first actor to make his fortune with his face. He wouldn’t be the last. He was just one of the luckiest, and, obviously, one of the unluckiest.

It was all down to practice. Muscle control. Hours of staring into a mirror and willing himself to look like that, or this. He learned it the hard way, by practice, and practice, and practice, and then more practice.

Of course I can do an old man, he’d say when he was younger, and casting directors would look on amazed while he aged quite literally in front of their astonished gazes. When he got older he could do it the other way. Twenty years younger? He’d ask. You need somebody twenty years younger? And the years would slip away while he stood in front of them. Shit, man, how do you do that?

Practice, he’d say.

His skin was weather-beaten, suntanned in some lights, pale in others. He could do an Italian, without any use of voice – he’d just look that way. Or a Viking. He could pass for a man of five continents. It was amazing. He could do it as a party trick, or to pull women. He could have done it to pull men, if he’d been that way inclined. He could do it to deter muggers, to charm bank managers.

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