Taggart, was my first big TV role. I played Jamie, a boy who works in a chemist's shop who is wrongfully suspected of murder. Taggart was the name of the Glasgow detective played by Mark McManus, and the show is still running in the UK.
I was so excited when I got this part. It was the first time I had done any real acting on TV, and it was the beginning of quite a run of shows I did for Scottish television. I remember finding it really hard to play a young Scottish boy because I'd just come out of drama school and had never played any character in my own voice.
The thing about being the chief suspect in a Taggart in those days was that everyone knew you couldn't really be the murderer because you were being focussed on too much and given too much screen time. Eventually in the last part of the third episode the chief suspect would be exonerated and there would be a mad dash to catch the real killer, who of course had been featured in the previous episodes but you were lead to believe he (or she in my case) was a red herring.
Taggart saw my first TV nude scene. I remember being in the studios at Cowcaddens in Glasgow (which were being razed to the ground in front of my very eyes when I stayed in an apartment building opposite them when we performed The Bacchae there in 2007) and when the time came for me to disrobe, the producer, Robert Love, made an announcement from the galley saying that as I was about to show my pudendum there would be a closed set. I didn't even know I had a pudendum. (Robert is a very natty man, and we once joked that he and Victor and Barry had a time-share cravatte scheme!
Mr Government was a new play by Stuart Paterson about life in a rural community in Ayrshire.
I played Donal, a boy with learning difficulties, and I remember that this was the first time that I actually understood acting. I don't know how to describe it. Something clicked, or loosened up, or I let go in some way. Whatever, one day on stage, I just sort of had a breakthough and realised that I could inhabit this person and it wasn't really like the acting I had been doing or had thought I had to do up to that point. I just felt that something opened inside me and I was more connected to the character. So I have a special fondness for this play and the experience I had. I got to work with great Scottish actresses like Caroline Paterson and Juliet Cadzow, and again with Martin Black who had been in Macbeth.
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams was the second play in my Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh repertory season.
I just love this play, and am so glad that I got to know it intimately at such a young age. I played two parts - the Young Collector and the Doctor who takes Blanche away at the end.
I remember the first preview we did. There was a custom that first preview audiences got in for free, so it was a really excited and exciteable crowd. When I came on as the Young Collector people actually whistled, and when Blanche kissed me the place went nuts!
Every night as soon as I had been kissed by Blanche, who was played by Vivien Heilbron, I rushed upstairs to my dressing room and began the startling transformation into the Doctor. I really went to town: glasses, white hair, lines, moustache, the lot. All my make-up training at RSAMD was well-used. Check it out! Once, when one of the other actors was stuck on the motorway from Glasgiw, I had to play Pablo too!
Tartuffe is a great play by Moliere, and this production, my first as part of a season of plays at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh, was a new Scots adaptation by the brilliant poet and playwright Liz Lochead.
I played the young lover, Valere, and here I am pictured with Gerda Stevenson. I was so excited to work at the Lyceum and be a part of a repertory company, and be in such a great play.
The Ugly Duckling was a pantomime for Borderline Theatre Company performed at the Magnum Centre, Irvine. I played Andy, who befriended the eponymous duck and dreamed of becoming a clown at the circus.
Forbes Masson, my Victor and Barry cohort, and another college friend Lousie Beattie, were the baddies, and Jenny McCrindle who I went on to work with in Sleeping Beauty and The High Life was the duck.
My biggest memory of this, aside from the wall of noise of the screaming children during each show, was getting up at the crack in the freezing Glasgow winter to get into a van and travel down to Irvine each morning. I was only out of drama school six months and already I was a moaning actor! But it is a real killer schedule. Three shows a day some days, so you sometimes came onstage and wondered if you had already done the scene you were about to do and therefore were about to repeat yourself, or had you just done it twice before that day in the previous two shows!!
I also remember a hotel in Irvine where we used to go to that had a water flume that was used as a carrot to get through that third show some nights.
Victor and Barry took part in a late night revue at McNally's Cabaret Club as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I remember rushing along there after performances of Trumpets and Raspberries.
Other acts performing in the revue were Arnold Brown, Jerry Sadowitz and Mullarkey and Myers, which was made up of Neil Mullarkey and Mike Myers. Yes, that one.
As soon as I left drama school in 1985 I started rehearsals for this Bordeline Theatre Company production of Dario Fo's play, Trumpets and Raspberries, which opened at the 1985 Edinburgh Festival fringe and then toured throughout Scotland.
I played a variety of small parts. After macbeth, Macbeth Possessed and Passin Glory, it was a little bit boring to be Medic #2 etc, but it was great fun. The two leading roles were played by Andy Gray and Elaine C.Smith. My then wife, Hilary Lyon, was also in the cast, so it was great to be able to be on tour with her.
That's me in the boiler third from the right.
Passing Glory was the first film I ever worked on. I was still a student at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow when I got the part. I had been allowed some time off my final year to make my theatre debut in Macbeth and Macbeth Possessed at the Tron theatre in Glasgow, and whilst I was still performing in the plays I was asked to go and meet the writer/director Gilles McKinnon. He is a really amazing man and I really loved his energy and his script. The character of Rab felt very different to anything I'd played before because in drama school plays I had only swanned around drawing rooms and French windows carrying a tennis racquet doing a plummy English accent. I had never played anyone my age, and never anyone from Scotland. Also Rab was from Glasgow and I wasn't, and I felt at the time a strange pressure that in some way I wasn't going to get those sorts of working class Glasgow boy type roles because I was not viewed that way. I guess I was viewed that way because I actually wasn't that way - I was working class alright but had been brought up in a very rural area in the east of Scotland and had an East Coast/Highland accent due to my parents. Of course now, looking back on it, having played in loads of films doing loads of different accents, I feel stupid for being cowed in this way. But hey, I was 20 and still a student.
The shoot was very exciting. Passing Glory was Gillies' graduation film from the National Film and Television School (NFTS) and so the crew was made up of a lot of his fellow students, who were really interesting and made my first experience on a movie set a special one. Everybody really cared about the film, they were really passionate.
I knew Fiona Chalmers a little bit before the shoot and I had seen Ida Schuster in loads of plays at the Citizens' Theatre (where it was my dream to work one day) so I was a little in awe of her, but she soon made me feel really comfortable and we got on like a house on fire.
The film also taught me a lot about the Spanish Civil War and how so many lefties from Scotland had gone over to fight for freedom, for the very notion of political and social freedom. I wish we had that spirit and fire nowadays.
Passing Glory premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 1986, and I remember going to see it and being shocked at how my nose arrived on the screen about 30 seconds before the rest of my face! It was the first time I had seen myself in a cinema and it wasn't easy.
I nearly worked with Gillies several years later when he made a film of a play I had done, The Conquest of the South Pole, but sadly the dates didn't work out. He has made some really stunning films and I am so happy and lucky to have worked with him on my first film, one that I still realy like and am very proud of.
I was allowed time off from my final term at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama to play Malcolm in both Shakespeare's Macbeth and a new play, Macbeth Possessed by Stuart Delves. This was my professional theatre debut, and a completely amazing experience for me.
I was only 20 and still a student and here I was working with these really great Scottish actors on this brilliant play, in a new theatrical venue in Glasgow. Michael Boyd directed and he really helped me open up as an actor in a way that nobody had at drama school, by making me look again and again at the text, and questioning it and my understanding of it. I was so eager to learn and to please Michael and I think in a way he made me the actor I am now. But he shouldn't be blamed!
He insisted on putting back the 'England scene' which is often cut, in which Macduff comes to visit Malcolm in exile and we see a side of Malcolm that is not so pure and innocent as we might have been led to believe.
The play was produced by the Tron Theatre in Glasgow. I had first worked at the Tron as an usher in my first term at college, and then Victor and Barry appeared there in the weekly Gong Shows in the bar. In fact we went on to win the Gong of Gongs, hosted by Robbie Coltrane, and I think it was during that time that Michael noticed me and thought of me for Malcolm.
Maureen Beattie was Lady Macbeth, and she had been in Dundee Rep's theatre-in education company that had come to Monikie Primary School when I was a little boy and made me want to become an actor! And also Siobhan Redmond played Lady Macduff and many years later she was Shona Spurtle in The High Life.
When I was in my final year of drama school at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, I was asked along with my class-mates Forbes Masson (who I was already in cahoots with doing Victor and Barry) and David Lee Michael to take part in a short film as part of a training course for directors at BBC Scotland. The director was Justin C Adams and here is his piece, which was all about the first world war. I perform Anthem For Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen.