1989

As You Like It

In this production by the Royal Shakespeare Company, I played Silvius, the young shepherd in (unrequited) love with Phoebe.

The production opened at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in the autumn of 1989, then toured to Newcastle before playing the London season at the Barbican in 1990.

All I will say about this production is that I hated my costume! When the story got to the forest of Arden, everyone suddenly wore underclothes. All the other boys who were the Duke's followers got to wear cut-off longjohns and singlets, but I had to wear white Y-fronts and have flowers in my hair. It was mortifying. The best thing about working at the RSC was making some great friends that I've kept in touch with ever since.

Sophie Thompson, who played Rosalind worked with Alan again in the films Emma and Nicholas Nickleby and as Juliet to his Romeo at the RNT studio.



Knickers

Stephen Unwin, who had directed me in The Conquest of the South Pole, asked me to be in another weird German play called Knickers by Carl Sternheim, at the Bristol Old Vic theatre

The play is about a woman whose knickers fall down when she is watching a procession go by one day. This causes two men to become infatuated with her and move into the apartment she shares with her husband! My character was obsessed with Nietzsche.The other character who was in love was played by an actor who actually left the production after the first preview, so we were flung into turmoil (which was of course rather exciting).

This was the first play I had done in a rep in England, and I remember feeling like a proper actor going on the bus every day from my digs to the theatre.



Victor and Barry Australian Tour

At the end of 1988, Forbes Masson and I flew to Sydney, Australia to start rehearsals and in early January 1989 we opened at the Playhouse of the Sydney Opera House in See Victor and Barry and Faint, a version of the show we had performed the previous year at the Edinburgh Festival, on tour in Scotland and at the Donmar Warehouse in London as part fo the Perrier Pick of the Fringe season.

After a month in Sydney we toured to Adelaide, Alice Springs, Cairns and Rockhampton.  

I remember that the hole in the ozone layer had recently been discovered above Australia and there was a huge PR campaign going on to encourage people to protect themselves from the sun. We were both incredibly pale and people would literally scream 'skin cancer' at us in the street, and ask us what factor we were using.

Here we are in a short clip from a hilarious TV show in Adelaide called A Touch of Elegance and from the Rockhampton local news show.


1988

Victor and Barry Say Goodbye

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.



The Conquest of the South Pole

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!!



Great Expectations

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



Cuttin' A Rug

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."


1987

Babes In The Wood

 

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.
Oh good.
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

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

 

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.