The loudmouth Dykes from Watford (“dahn sahf”) are the new family, set to shake things up big time in Benidorm. They’ll clash with the show’s stalwarts, the Garveys, in a pronounced North–South divide. But the four actors playing them will be mostly fresh faces to millions of TV viewers.
Playing the dad, Clive, Perry Benson has had the longest career, stretching back to the 1970s. Now in his early 50s, this is one of Perry’s first major TV roles. Today, I meet him at the bar in Neptune’s nightclub. He’s just been filming a brawl among the chairs and tables.
“I’ve been shouting a lot today,” he says, peering from behind Mr Magoo specs and speaking in the same Cockney accent as Clive Dyke. “My character shouts a lot. He’s got anger-management problems.”
He describes Clive as “an affluent, nouveau-riche builder from Watford. That’s why Tonya’s attracted to him. But the money’s rapidly going.” During the series we'll see them battling among themselves, and with the Garveys. “They’re at war at different points and Madge pours the petrol on the fire.”
Perry has quickly taken to the show: “It’s a giggle. I’ve done a lot of heavy social dramas. They’re all team players on this. No one’s unapproachable or snotty.” He’s worked with some of the cast before: “Kenny Ireland [Donald] and even Derren [Litten, Benidorm’s writer] when he was acting in The Tower at the Almeida.”
Outside Neptune’s, in the cast’s chill-out tent, I meet the rest of the Dyke clan.
The statuesque and in real-life quite refined Hannah Waddingham plays brassy mum Tonya. Don’t ever call her Tanya! “She’s a trophy wife but they’ve been together since childhood. She loves Clive because he’s a silly arse, but I doubt there’s been any bedroom activity since [son] Tiger was born.”
Of all the Dykes, Tonya is having the worst time in Benidorm. She despises the Garveys. “We think they’re low-lifes, awful people, when in fact we’re just as awful as they are, in a southern way as opposed to a northern, stereotypical way. I’m constantly letting people know we’re from a moneyed background but it’s a house of cards.”
Tonya is oblivious to the family’s money worries, which is how they’ve ended up holidaying at the Solana.
“They usually go to the Caribbean or Egypt,” says Bel Powley, who plays Clive and Tonya’s daughter Bianca. She arrives in episode two and is mistaken for a “high-class European prostitute” by Donald, the know-all swinger.
“We do a lot of moaning,” she says, “but we’re a very tight family.” Both women have had to change their look completely for the series. Bel usually has brown hair. And they’d dress very differently. “At the beginning Hannah and I would get our outfits and be like, ‘Oh God, that’s terrible.’ But three months in, we get it and go, ‘Oh I like that one!’ It’s playing dress-up every day.”
The troublemaker in the group is her younger brother, Tiger, played by Essex lad Danny Walters. He’s actually 20, whereas his character is 16. “At that age,” says Danny, “you don’t wanna go on holiday with your parents. He hates it.
“He’s the type of kid I wouldn’t want to mess with. Not nasty but he likes to get into trouble. He doesn’t care what happens. He’s always nicking something but he never gets caught. He’s sly.” In fact, a bit of an Artful Dodger: “He sees Michael as his apprentice.” Danny leads the teenage Garvey lad astray in most episodes.
Danny graduated from the London School of Musical Theatre in 2012 and this is his first big job after nerve-racking auditions. He's been “a big fan since series one” and says he felt that “something changed” within himself when he landed the part. “It’s the best thing that’s happened in my life.”
Last summer, all four could walk the streets unrecognised and undisturbed. That’s all about to change with the small-screen fame that’s heading their way.
Below: RT's Patrick Mulkern meets Bel Powley, Danny Walters and Hannah Waddingham