From Dickensian London to tough streets of Chicago

Actor Mike Burnside appears in A Raisin in the Sun at the Crucible Studio
Actor Mike Burnside appears in A Raisin in the Sun at the Crucible Studio

Actor Mike Burnside has made a swift change from the streets of Dickensian London for 1950s Chicago for a play on stage in Sheffield.

Mike plays Karl Lindner, the only white character in A Raisin in the Sun at the Crucible Studio.

Mike said: “The housing improvement association he belongs to have discovered the Younger family are going to buy a house in the area.

“The character that I’m playing has to try and persuade them not to move into the white area. He attempts to buy them off and buy the house back at a profit.”

Mike says that Lindner isn’t meant to be seen as a “fully hooded Ku Klux Klan man”. “He of course doesn’t think he’s a racist. He honestly thinks that this deal they have come up with isn’t bad.

“He sees it as being a good plan that is forward-thinking. He can’t see it at all as being unbelievably insulting.”

Lindner gets to quite like the family but Mike believes he is limited by his background: “This is a man born in the 19th century and old attitudes die very hard. Even Lindner is beginning to see that things will eventually change.”

The play is set just before the US civil rights movement began to challenge racism

Mike said: “I believe the play is absolutely relevant today, not just in America but everywhere, with the influx of immigrants and how people are talking about that, and whether we should be multicultural or not. It’s very much on the cards at the moment.”

Mike also appears in the new BBC drama series Dickensian, a murder mystery that features Dickens characters set in Victorian London, as Major Bagstock, who is from Dombey and Son.

Mike said: “He is a bit of a disciplinarian and is one of the trustees of the workhouse. We already know that Mr Bumble is in it and Gradgrind has been mentioned. I’m on this committee with Gradgrind and a couple of others.

“It is a brilliant idea. I’m very surprised it hasn’t been done before. It’s a great thing for the BBC to take up.”

Mike said that the whole series has been filmed in a huge warehouse in west London, which is home to all the sets and backstage areas too.

He has worked in Sheffield theatres a lot as a member of Compass Theatre. His first visit was in the first touring adaptation of Harper Lee’s book To Kill a Mockingbird.

Mike said: “It’s very interesting to be back here in another play about racial tension. But A Raisin in the Sun isn’t just about that, it’s about a family in conflict in a story which involves race.”

A Raisin in the Sun runs from January 28 to February 13. Box office: at the theatre, at Sheffield Theatres or call 0114 2496000.