I made my professional debut with the 7:84 Scottish theatre company in a touring production of The Resistible Rise of
Arturo Ui. The 7:84 was formed by John McGrath in the 1970s and is still going strong. It takes two or three shows a year
on one-night-stand tours around the Highlands and Islands, stopping longer in the larger towns.
Anyway, I went for the audition just after graduating from the Royal Scottish Academy aged about 20 - a single-minded youngster,
I had started there at the tender age of 17 - and landed the part of Giri the hitman: my first professional part.
I think there can have been only about six of us in the production - I suspect for monetary reasons rather than artistic
ones. Arturo Ui was one of those Brecht plays with thousands of characters; inevitably, we shared them all out, with the help
of a few wigs and fake noses. It was great fun; we were all young and up for it. Three of us had been at drama school together,
and I was terrifically excited. I was fresh out of college and really rather green, but I was earning a proper wage and having
enormous fun touring Scotland in a small van.
Our first stop was Motherwell Civic Hall, and the first performance was a disaster. We hadn't had time to finish the technical
rehearsal, let alone attempt a dress rehearsal. We might have managed had the production not been so complicated. But we were
a group of travelling players who unpacked and made themselves up on stage so, of course, everyone was changing, swapping
props, losing props and mislaying wigs. It was utter chaos on stage as we struggled past the point at which we had ended the
technical run. I remember thinking at one point: "This is my professional debut, and it is all falling apart."
But we got through it. It may have been rusty and received terrible reviews, but the whole thing had a vibrancy and energy
that I adored. And, of course, I thought we were excellent.