The rising stars of Scottish theatre

The rising stars of Scottish theatre

Clockwise from top-left: Nicola Roy, Gary McNair, Gemma McElhinney, Katy Wilson, Scott Fletcher

Interviews with Helen Darbyshire, Gary McNair, Gemma McElhinney, Katy Wilson, Nicola Roy and Scott Fletcher

Helen Darbyshire

Age: 22

Where will I know her from?
She’s on Dundee Rep’s graduate scheme, which gives a year-long contract to promising actors straight out of college. Brought up in nearby Cupar, she introduced herself to Dundee audiences in a minor part in A Doll’s House before taking the lead in Sleeping Beauty.

What is she appearing in?
Right now, Darbyshire is taking the lead role in Jim Cartwright’s The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (until 19 March) while rehearsing during the day for the part of a princess in the ‘Tim Burton-esque’ children’s show The Firebird (28 March–9 April), followed by a part in Anna Karenina (23 May–11 June) and then the female lead in a site-specific version of Dennis Kelly’s post-apocalyptic two-hander After the End (16–25 June).

What she says:
‘It’s a funny time to be in work in this industry with the recession, but it makes you work harder and it makes you appreciate the work you’re doing. I feel positive about my generation of theatremakers because it’s pushing boundaries and there’s so much stuff that’s really great out there.’

What they say about her:
‘Helen Darbyshire brings a delightful child-like quality to her role as Briar Rose, the nap-induced beauty.’ Peter Cargill, The Stage, on Sleeping Beauty.

Gary McNair

Age: 25

Where will I know him from?
Having graduated from the contemporary practice course at Glasgow’s RSAMD in 2007, McNair worked on community projects in the Learn department of the National Theatre of Scotland before spending a year as a company associate and developing Crunch, a solo show about money. After winning Platform 18, the Arches new work award, he presented How Soon is Nigh? on the theme of the apocalypse. Other shows include Outside of a Pod and Equal and Opposite.

What is he appearing in?
He’ll be presenting his analysis of the voting system, Count Me In, as a work-in-progress for the NTS Reveal season at the Traverse, Edinburgh, (2–5 March) and the Citizens, Glasgow (16–19 March). He plans to revive Crunch on the Edinburgh Fringe and will perform alongside Kieran Hurley in Pause with a Smile (Traverse, Edinburgh, 14–17 April and the Arches, Glasgow, date tbc). With Hurley, he will develop a piece called Man Test, in which they compete to prove their manliness.

What he says:
‘I’ve been billed as playwright, actor, live artist, experimental performance maker, monologist … If I was to label it anything, I’d say theatremaker. That’s the best terminology because you just do what you have to do to make it happen. There is a solo-show generation – young people, one voice – but there is no camaraderie like the Glasgow Boys art movement, we’re not a collective, but it’s good to see other work doing well.’

What they say about him:
‘McNair’s talent for turning hilarious gambits into instances of genuinely moving and profound insight into his – and our – humanity is a joy to watch.’ Mary Brennan, The Herald, on Equal and Opposite.

Gemma McElhinney

Age: 25

Where will I know her from?
Like Darbyshire, the Glasgow-born McElhinney got her first break on the graduate scheme at Dundee Rep. After studying at Edinburgh’s Queen Margaret University, she appeared in Mother Courage and Her Children, Beauty and the Beast, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Quelques Fleurs and Peer Gynt. Her fresh-faced look makes her a shoo-in to play younger characters (‘I don’t know if I’ve hit puberty yet’): most recently, she has been seen at the Citizens, Glasgow, as Duck in David Greig’s The Monster in the Hall, the lead role in Beauty and the Beast and a schools tour of an anti-violence play.

What is she appearing in?
She is developing a sitcom idea with a filmmaker friend and hoping funding comes through for a revival of Monster in the Hall: ‘I do believe in that show and we got such a wonderful response from it.’

What she says:
‘There’s a generation now that don’t want to wait for work, they want to create it for themselves. Social media has helped; on Facebook you’re constantly aware of other things going on, people writing things, actors producing work for themselves. It’s really useful in terms of collaborating with each other. I hate not being creative because that’s what you trained to do.’

What we say about her:
‘Gemma McElhinney has a gift for the silky high note as the honest Beauty.’ Lauren Mayberry, The List, on Beauty and the Beast.

Katy Wilson

Age: 28

Where will I know her from?
She is coming to the end of a year as artist in residence with Starcatchers, a theatre company for pre-schoolers. Based at Glasgow’s Tramway, she has put her art-school background to inventive use, not only as a designer but as an originator of work for the very young. ‘The whole year has been trying to stretch the definition of what is suitable for little children,’ she says. In performances such as Multicoloured Blocks From Space, Sprog Rock and Icepole – and with collaborators including Kim Moore of Zoey Van Goey – she has drawn together installation art, live music, acting and audience interaction.

What is she appearing in?
She is planning to revive Sprog Rock, an attempt to create a credible gig for kids, in August. Before that, she is working on This Sucks, a love story between a Hoover and a piece of dust.

What she says:
‘I’ve not ever made a conscious decision not to be a designer, it just kind of happened, but I think that is because of the sort of work that’s happening. The reason I appeared in Icepole myself was I wanted to draw and I didn’t want it to be actor who was drawing. So I’m involved as a designer, but live. I get excited about everybody having an input into the work no matter what discipline they’re from.’

What they say about her:
‘An enticement to young imaginations, with some simply gorgeous visual effects.’ Mary Brennan, The Herald, on Icepole.

Scott Fletcher

Age: 22

Where will I know him from?
You will know him best as Charlie Smith, one of Greg McHugh’s hapless sidekicks in Gary: Tank Commander, but even while studying at Glasgow’s RSAMD, Fletcher was developing an impressive CV. As well as parts in Taggart and Monarch of the Glen, he starred in The Dogstone opposite Andy Gray for the NTS, took the lead in the Royal Lyceum’s Peter Pan as well as parts in David Harrower’s 365 and Lucky Box, and Davey Anderson’s Clutter Keeps Company. ‘That’s where you learn your craft, working with professionals and older actors who are much more

What is he appearing in?
Sticking with the military theme, he is playing Kenzie in the latest world tour of Black Watch and calling into Rothes Halls, Glenrothes (16–19 March). If another series of Gary Tank Commander is commissioned, he’d jump at the chance. ‘I’d love to do some more TV, some drama, something a bit gritty,’ he says, phoning in from Austin, Texas.

What he says:
‘Being in the Black Watch cast just now shows how talented Scotland’s actors are. Jack Lowden is 20 and he’s playing the lead in one of Scotland’s biggest shows. It’s great to see. It gives you a confidence that you can make it. And Black Watch is great – it’s the fittest I’ve ever been.’

What we say about him:
‘Scott Fletcher [creates] an appropriate mix of gung-ho bravado, puckishness and vulnerability as the boy who never grows up.’ Allan Radcliffe, The List, on Peter Pan.

Nicola Roy

Age: 26

Where will I know her from?
After graduating from London's Rose Bruford College, the Edinburgh-born Roy landed the part of Frances McPherson in two episodes of BBC drama Hope Springs. She also played journalist Jen Lewis in River City. Returning to Scotland full-time, she played So-Shy with the late Gerard Kelly in Aladdin at the King's, Glasgow; all the female roles in A Clockwork Orange at the Citizens, Glasgow; and Dolina in John Byrne's hilarious translation of The Cherry Orchard at Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum.

What is she appearing in?
Back at the Royal Lyceum where she started out as a teenager in the youth theatre company, she is playing the closeted Agnes in Liz Lochhead's Educating Agnes (8 Apr-7 May), a reworking of the Moliere comedy L'ecole des Femmes. 'I'm lucky Liz Lochhead exists,' she says. 'She makes you proud to be Scottish. Her plays have always inspired me. Not only does Liz understand what it is to be Scottish but she understands what it is to be a woman.'

What she says:
‘I feel part of a generation that is really willing to take risks. It's not all about "What can I do to better my career?" - people are willing to stretch themselves and do work that is relevant, that's now.’

What we say about her:
'Nicola Roy's So-Shy - an Ugly Betty lookalike who chatters like a parrot on speed.' Mary Brennan, The Herald, on Aladdin.

Black Watch

Based on interviews with soldiers who served in Iraq, Black Watch reveals what it means to be part of the Scottish regiment.

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice

  • 4 stars

A production of Jim Cartwright's hit play about a young woman who discovers she can mimic the voices of the greatest vocalists of the 20th century.

The Firebird

Neil Duffield's powerful play follows Prince Ivan, who spends his days polishing apples which fall from his father's priceless apple tree. One day his apples are mysteriously stolen and, after Ivan discovers the identity of the thief, he is led on a magical adventure to a place far from the world he knows.

Anna Karenina

  • 4 stars

Tolstoy's tragic tale of love, sex, marriage and morals set in imperial Russia is brought to life by the award winning director/designer team of Jemima Levick and Alex Lowde.

After the End

Play by award-winning playwright Dennis Kelly about a couple who wake up in a nuclear shelter after an attack and are forced to confront their relationship while trapped underground.

Black Watch

  • Written by: Gregory Burke

Today, as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan touch us in different ways, Black Watch opens our perception to the complex and uncomfortable reality of war in general. This is political theatre that is still as relevant and urgent as ever. Forcibly throwing us into the frontline soldier's experience, the boredom, the…

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