Trumpets and Raspberries

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.

Macbeth/Macbeth Possessed

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.


Victor and Barry

My friend from drama school, Forbes Masson, and I made up two characters called Victor and Barry for a college cabaret to entertain the final years drama students at the Royal Scottish academy of Music and Drama in 1982.

The act went down a storm and we began to do it outside college, mostly in small venues in Glasgow like Hallibees Cafe Cabaret just off Byres Road.

Then in 1984 we took Victor and Barry to the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival.  We played in a tiny venue called the Harry Younger Hall, which the RSAMD had taken over for official college shows and other plays and cabarets that students and former students were mounting.  Forbes and I did that thing that I see kids doing now and really feel for them: we handed out flyers (in character) on the Royal Mile trying to trick tourists into coming to see us.

The big thing at the Fringe is to get a good review in the Scotsman newspaper.  Our review wasn't particularly good, and so when we were invited to the Fringe Club to be part of a Best of the Fest night, we decided to get our revenge. We made up new words about the bad review to the song 'Lucky Star' and the chorus was 'We can thank you, Andrew Marr, that you're not as smart as you'd like to think you are'.  Rather hilariously, Andrew Marr is now one of Britian's foremost political journalists in print and on TV. Here I am on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh in 2009, talking about it on Scottish TV, and the experience of being a performer at the festival in general