Automatic Transmission was a pilot for Night Network on ITV in the UK, which I shot with Forbes Masson and Ross King late in 1988.
The premise was that Ross drove a huge old NYC taxi and the guests sat with him in the front, and Forbes and I, in our guises as Victor and Barry, were the car wash men who hopped into the back of the taxi and bitched about the guests in the front. Luckily we shot our bits on a different day from the guests! The pilot had The Boys, Sigue Sigue Sputnik and Pia Zadora as guests, but strangely it was never made into a series!!
At the 1988 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Victor and Barry's sell-out show Victor and Barry Say Goodbye was chosen to be part of the Perrier Pick of the Fringe Season at the Donmar Warehouse in London's Covent Garden.
This was Victor and Barry's first sojourn south of the border (though they would be soon appearing south of the equator when they toured Australia) and it caused quite a storm amongst the Scottish media. It's hard to describe now, but in the eighties it was still a big deal to 'make it' in London if you lived in Scotland. And as Victor and Barry had become really succesful in a relatively short time there was much anticipation about their London debut and how they would be received (indeed even if the would be understood.)
So when Scottish TV asked to film us and our preparations for the Donmar debut we decided it would be fun to make it a sort of mockumentary in Victor and Barry's rather surreal style. Our friend Hazel Eadie, who had been in our panto the previous year at the Tron Theatre, made an appearance as a mysterious beauty, and our au pair was played by the actual room-mate we inherited when we rented a half-renovated flat in Stoke Newington from a set designer I had been working with. It is a bizarre little show culminating in some footage from the actual first perfomance. Look out for actor Richard Griffiths who was in the audience for some reason!
I took part in a demonstration against the Poll tax, which was about to be introduced into Scotland the following year. Aside from it being a horribly unfair tax (the poorest people were taxed more because they tended to be living with more people in one home, and the richer taxed less as this tax was per person and did not take into account how many or how valuable homes were) we were also furious that Scotland was being used as a guniea pig to try it out before it was introduced into the rest of the UK in 1990. There were eventually street riots in London and many believe the failure of the poll tax was the death knell of Margaret Thatcher's premiership.
I also joined a thing called the Scottish 100, a list of 100 prominent Scottish artists, politicians, clergy and all sorts who just refused to pay the poll tax. I eventually paid the equivalent once it had been abolished.
I got the call to return to Glendarroch and do another stint on Take The High Road, but this time...yikes...I was to be killed off. It was actually a very great honour as I was the first character ever to be murdered in Take The High Road.
I was burned alive in Mr Blair's peat shed. Natch. They didn't even get me to play my own charred body. They used some old prop from an episode of Taggart. Seriously.
This is Teri Lally who played Carol. She thought she was pregnant so I chopped a tree down on top of her and then tried to strangle her. Duh.
Victor and Barry took their new show Victor and Barry Say Goodbye to the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh for the festival, and later in the year to the Donmar Warehouse in London where we were invited to take part in the Perrier Pick of the Fringe season. The shows at the Donmar were my West End debut.
We'd previously opened Glasgow's Mayfest with a huge sell-out show at the Theatre Royal. Here we are premiering our anthem for Vic and Baz's hometown, Glasgow, on the STV Mayfest TV show.
Conquest of the South Pole is by German writer Manfred Karge. I played Slupianek, an unemployed youth who went on an imaginary journey with his friends to the South Pole, emulating the real-life journey of Ronald Amundsen.
The play premiered as part of the Traverse Theatre's season in 1988, returning for the Edinburgh Festival and then transferring to the Royal Court Theatre in London for a limited season at the end of the year. It was directed by Stephen Unwin, who would later direct me in Knickers and Hamlet. Tilda Swinton was assistant director.
The rest of the cast was Paul Higgins, Alasdair Galbraith, Simon Donald, Hilary Maclean, Ewan Bremner, Carol Ann Crawford and Sam Graham
In a way this play changed my life because when it transferred to London I was nominated Most Promising Newcomer in the 1988/89 Laurence Olivier Award (losing to Richard Jones who later would direct me in La Bete.) That was a big deal and I started to be offered work in London, and shortly after moved there.
When I finished the run at the royal Court I went to Australia to do the Victor and Barry tour and met a young actor who was playing Slupianek in the Sydney production at the Belvoir St Theatre. His name? Baz Lurhman!!
Victor and Barry were co-hosts of the Scottish part of the ITV Telethon in 1988. We had to stay up all night and constantly greet members of the public who got progressively more drunk and carried larger and larger checks. It was very surreal, especially the Vitcotr and Barry Search for a Star parts, where people did things like singing with their heads inside a washing machine!
It was great fun, and actually my first time ever doing live television with people talking to me in my ear whilst trying to be witty and effervescent. No mean feat. I also remember that when day broke we had a couple of drinks and some prawn cocktail and then went on live TV again, a bit pished.
Great Expectations was a co-production between TAG (The touring arm of the Glasgow Citzens' Theatre) and the Gregory Nash Dance Group.
Six actors and six dancers performed a version of the Dickens novel and we won the Spirit of Mayfest Award at that year's festival. The production went on to tour Scotland and Northern England. I played Pip.
I really enjoyed this show because the actors really had to dance and the dancers really had to act. As I was playing the lead I had to dance a lot, and I think this show really cemented the way I think about acting, in that I think of characters in a very physical way first, and put great emphasis into the way any character moves.
I got blisters on his feet in rehearsals from all the barefoot movement, and I remember soaking them in surgical spirits to make the skin harder. (A dance tip for you!)
The cast included my Victor and Barry partner Forbes Masson, and fellow RSAMD students James Kennedy, Alasdair Galbraith and Rachel Ogilvy
I returned to Dundee Rep at the beginning of the year to play Phil McCann again in the second part of John Byrne's Slab Boys Trilogy.
Cuttin' A Rug takes place at the carpet factory's work dance. I really loved this production because there was no set to speak of, and we had a really complex set of imaginary walls and mirrors and loos that became incredibly alive. The action picks up after Phil has discovered he didn't get into art school that day.
The last last line of the play is one of my favourite ever: "You're nineteen, you've got a wardrobe full of clothes, you've got everything to live for."
Hogmanay, aka New Year's Eve, is a huge deal in Scotland and so is the TV show that rings in the bells each year.
In 1987, Victor and Barry took part in the Scottish Television spectacular. It was pretty terrifying. We had never done live television before and there was a lot to go wrong, as well as an audience of drunken Glaswegians to entertain.
Actually looking back on it now, that was the strangest part of the whole thing: finishing the show at about 1.30am on New Year's Day and everyone being so drunk and Forbes and I being totally sober.
We performed a few skits and sang a song medley that included a duet, or rather a quartet, with Moray Hunter and Jack Docherty as Don and George.