Here is an article that Forbes Masson and I wrote for some Scottish publication that I can't remember now about Babes in the Wood.
The collie and the Carnoustie question
How did we write the panto?
Well, we got a piece of paper and pen.
That’s not funny.
I know, but it used up another ten words.
Seriously though, in May of this year, Michael Boyd asked us to find a well-known panto and adapt it to suit the somewhat limited talents of Victor and Barry. (They’d very kingly agreed to star in it without seeing the script beforehand).
We eventually settled on Babes in the Wood, although it wasn’t really our first choice. We really wanted to do Jack and the Beanstalk, except Barry is afraid of heights, and Victor has a goose phobia.
They also both felt it was a little height-ist.
To cut a long story short…
What we’ve gone for is a good old-fashioned adventure story, which I think will excite both children and adults alike.
We had a great time working out all the different characters. Apart from Victor and Barry, there’s a mad scientist, a principle collie, a magic seagull, a hippy chicken as well as Mummy, Daddy and home help. The whole thing is set in that magical, faraway place… Kelvinside, and the tale begins on Christmas Eve.
It’s a very Cosmopolitan panto. That’s not really due to its content, more with the exotic locations in which it was conceived. They include: the beach in Carnoustie, Falkirk, Glasgow, Shetland, London, a chalet in St Andrews (which incidentally was totally devoid of light, heat, and water), and lots of trains. The last few words were penned in an alcohol-induced haze in a kitchen in, wait for it, Carnoustie.
Why does Carnoustie feature so prominently in the creation of this epic, you may ask. Well it’s none of your business.
The first day of rehearsals was really scary. The whole staff of the Tron… directors, stage managers, designers… and worst of all, actors, all sitting round reading our script for the first time.
Normally, the only performers we write for are Victor and Barry, so we’re not really used to intelligent, artistic criticism of out work.
Anyway, there’s no going back now. The handouts are printed, the seats are selling fast, we open on December 9 and we’d like to crawl into a little corner and come out in January when it’s all over.
Never mind how we write the panto… why did we??
Babes in the Wood had traditional elements but letting Victor and Barry loose on anything changed the landscape somewhat. It was set in Glasgow's west end, with Victor and Barry playing themselves as baby brothers, in blue and pink (I think I may have been the pink one). The show also included an evil villain who hated animals called Vivy Section (geddit?) and the Good Fairy character was a seagull who also doubled as Victor and Barry's mother who had left the home after a messy divorce.
The end song, Dreams Can Come True was included in Victor and Barry's album Hear Victor and Barry and Faint released in 1998 on Jammy Records.
This video is of us promoting the show on Glen Michael's Cavalcade. Glen is a legend, btw.
Cabaret was the opening play of the Brunton Theatre in Mussleburgh's 1987 season.
I played Cliff to Anne Smith's Sally, with Norman McCallum playing the EmCee. Little did I think I would be doing the show again in the West End and on Broadway.
I remember that the director Charles Nowosielski allowed me to go back to the Isherwood books and to add parts to Cliff's narration. I also remember my big number was Why Should I Wake Up? , which was mercifully dropped from the subsequent productions I did. I also remember slipping regularly on the remnants of the egg that my Sally Bowles dropped on the floor during the making of her Prairie Oyster.
It is startling to me to see that I have a monobrow in these pictures. It is as though Cliff Bradshaw was played by a Scottish Frida Kahlo.
A Royal Match was a community tour produced by the Brunton Theatre Company in Mussleburgh, which toured various venues in Midlothian the late summer of 1987
It was a new play about Mary Queen of Scots, written as part of the celebrations of the anniversary of the Scottish queen's death, or birth, I can't quite remember (and I think that speaks volumes). I played the English Lord Darnley and got to swan around various castles and statley homes that we performed in.
That's me straddling the canon.
Forbes Masson and I took our latest Victor and Barry show to the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh for the duration of the festival. We had previously performed it at Glasgow's Mayfest and Cumbernauld Theatre.
Here we are singing our Edinburgh Festival Song on Scottish television's show Acropolis Now
STV also helped us with the production of an album (on cassette), also entitled Are We Too Loud?
This video was made for BSkyB and directed by our friend Ashtar Alkhirsan.
Terry Neason is an amazing singer/actress who had worked extensively with 7:84 and Wildcat theatre companies in Scotland and was now given her own show by Scottish television.
Forbes and I were brought on to be script editors and to appear each week as Victor and Barry, bringing a bit of light relief to the proceedings. We had a bit of shtick with Terry about her not letting us sing and so on the last episode of the series the three of us did a rather surreal version of It's Not Where You Start, It's Where You Finish!!
There were some amazing musical guests on the show including the bands Hue and Cry, Deacon Blue and Horse. The lovely Susie Maguire also appeared as her alter-ego Marina.
Here are Victor and Barry's best bits including their version of West Side Story with some geriatric backing dancers.
Victor and Barry were darlings of the Scottish cabaret scene, but now television domination beckoned. Forbes and I were asked to wrte and host short magazine programmes about Mayfest, Glasgow's annual arts' festival. We jumped at the chance, and, as Victor and Barry would say, suddenly the sluice gates of television stardom opened.
Looking back at it, this was an incredible experience because we were having to write material on the hoof, and change it according to which guests were available at the last minute, all the while trying to convey the characteristics and world of Victor and Barry to an unsuspecting nation. Also at one point during the three weeks of the shows, I had to go away to Shetland to do some performances of It's Not The End of the World and so that is why Forbes is suddenly interviewing the artist George Wylie on his own!
In 1987 and 1988 I was the co-presenter, with my former wife Hilary Lyon, of several of these BBC educational programmes. I can't remember exactly how many I did but I know the first one we ever did was about the Sixties and that was really fun - I got to play a dalek from Dr. Who.
There was another when I had to go up in a helicopter with two little girls from Glasgow, and one of them freaked out and wouldn't go. And then there was one about autumn. I'm sorry I can't remember anymore. I am too old.
Below is one called Colours and Reflections and was shot at the Glasgow Garden Festival in 1988. That's followed by a segment of the Sixties show.
This new play by Jack Klaff and Bob Sinfield premiered at the Theatre Workshop in Edinburgh and then toured extensively throughout Scotland. I played a young man who discovers that nuclear weapons are actually illegal according to international law, and tries to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights.
It was a really interesting idea, merging the home life of the characters, my character's obsession with his quest and flitting back and forth in time to other acts of war. The best part about it was the fun we had touring through the Highlands, playing little church halls, sometimes having to shoo sheep off the road to be able to drive to the next venue. It was such a great way to see my country.
The company included Hilary Lyon (my ex-wife), Maureen Carr, Stewart Preston, Vari Sylvester and me. It was directed by Bryan Elsley.
John Byrne's play is the first part of his Slab Boys trilogy, about the lives and loves of three young men from Paisley working in the slab room of a carpet factory in the 1950s. I played Phil McCann, a slab boy who spends his day grinding down paint on a marble slab in the slab room. But Phil is a budding artist and has applied to the Glasgow school of Art as his escape, and on the day the play takes place he will find out if he has been succesful.
The Slab Boys is a brilliant play. Its language and characters are rich and dense, and it truly is a Scottish classic. I remember it being an incredibly challenging thing for me and during the course of it I learned so much about acting and allowing yourself to come through a character. It's one of the roles that I'd like to have had another bash at but sadly the years have taken their toll and that will never happen.
Luckily though, John Byrne went on to write other plays for these characters, and I played Phil again the next year in the second instalment of the trilogy Cuttin' A Rug. The third play is Still Life, and in 2008 a fourth play, Nova Scotia, was premiered at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh.
The Slab Boys was performed at Dundee Repertory Theatre in early 1987, directed by Alan Lyddiard. the cast included Caroline Paterson (pictured), Robert Carlyle, Vince Friel, Irene Sunters, Alec Westwood and Paul Samson.
Pantomime is huge in Scotland. And by pantomime I don't mean people with white faces pretending to walk into winds. I mean panto, with men dressed up as women and they're behind you and variety acts appearing for very tenous reasons. If you don't know, then please go and google it.
Anyway, in the late eighties, as the boom in alternative cabaret raged, the Tron theatre in Glasgow decided to start doing alternative pantos. The poster byline for this version of Sleeping Beauty was 'Young, Gifted, Asleep'. It was written by Craig Fergusson (later the talk show sensation in the States) and Peter Capaldi. It premiered at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow in December 1986 with Forbes Masson and I taking our Victor and Barry characters and turning them into the pantomime dames, Victoria and Barathea. It was my first time in drag. I am not a pretty girl.