Out, out damned
Mark Fisher discovers that Iain Glen has more to say for himself than he thinks.
When an actor tells you he finds it difﬁcult talking about acting. it‘s time to put the panic button on stand-by. When that same actor has a reputation for shying away from interviews. you have extra cause for alarm. Star-name proﬁles become rather less than glitzy ifthe star in question has nothing to say. But when that actor has spent the past 45 minutes happily chatting away to you. it seems rather an odd comment to make.
‘I don‘t believe that the qualities 1 have as an actor in any way lend themselves to speaking about myself,‘ says lain Glen sitting in an admin ofﬁce at the back of Glasgow‘s Tron Theatre. ‘l‘ve always been a bit publicity-shy as a result — purely because I ﬁnd it uncomfortable. I wish I did ﬁnd it comfortable. lnstinctively, given the choice. I wouldn‘t speak to anyone about it ever.‘
It‘s the craft of acting that makes Glen dry up. Ask him about why he likes Shakespeare or what he thinks about cinema or what it means to be Scottish.
and he'll tell you anything you want to know. Inquire 5
about the style of Michael Boyd‘s forthcoming Macbeth in which he takes the lead role. and he’ll cry: ‘Oh don‘t ask me!‘ Pressed further. he lets on that the all-Scottish company is performing in a Jacobean setting. but beyond that. it‘s down to the mysterious, evolutionary processes of the rehearsal room. ‘You have to let it seep slowly in. in whatever way it does.‘ he says enigmatically.
The unusual thing about the Edinburgh-born actor is that despite earning a formidable reputation on the English stage, notably in recent productions of Hamlet. She Stoops to Conquer. C oriolanas and King Lear. he has not performed in Scotland since before he went to drama college. Here, he's probably best known for his portrayal of Larry Winters in David Hayman's Silent Scream. but he‘s also earned an irrpressive list of ﬁlm and TV credits — RUM’NCI‘UIIIZ And GuildenStem Are Dead, Paris By Night. Gorillas In The Mist — since graduating from RADA in 1986. This is the ﬁrst time since his university days in Aberdeen (where he was last directed by his brother Hamish. who now runs Dundee Rep) that Scottish audiences will be able to see what The Guardian called this, ‘athletic. technically resourceful and dangerous' stage actor in the ﬂesh.
Glen is certainly keen to do more work in Scotland — he‘s been talking to director Michael Boyd about
doing Macbeth for over two years — but he‘s also pleased that a combination of fate and early acting success has enabled him to keep a range of possibilities open. ‘I only applied to one drama school. because it was the only one that was holding auditions at that particular time. it had a double- intake.‘ he says. explaining how it was disorganisation as much as anything else that got him into RADA. 'Training in London is one part of it. but not so much as how people perceive you. I luckily got a part in a TV series where l was playing a
‘I love the challenge and have a desire for versatility, to test, to find out what’s less familiar, what seems less comfortable to me and take it on.’
London villain. That sort of shock-treatment is what people who are employing you need before they can say. “Oh right. you‘re an actor. you‘re not a Scottish actor,“ or. “You‘re not an Edinburgh middle-class actor“. You keep needing to knock people‘s perceptions of what you do.
‘I was really happy that Silent Scream happened. because it was an opportunity to come back here and play a Scotsman. I enjoyed it probably much more than anything I‘ve ever done ﬁlmwise. It sounds pat and simplistic. but for me. having as wide a choice as possible is all I really would hope for — and it‘s wanting the world. I appreciate that.‘
To have stayed in Edinburgh. he feels, would have denied him that range of choices. Choices that enable him to vary his career so that after this
laln Glen: ‘You keep needing to knock people's perceptlons at what you do'.
Shakespearean tragedy. he‘ll do a new Michael Frayn two-hander and after that he expects to be back in front of the cameras. ‘My policy.‘ he says. admitting to being ambitious but not ruthlessly so. ‘is to try and make the arena in which I'm working as wide as possible. be it Scotland. Britain. Europe. America. and in film terms. not to go to Hollywood and speculate and probably end up playing token English villains in American films. [fl went to America. I would love to do American parts. To me. the fundamental nature of acting is trying to do different things. That goes from theatre to ﬁlm to new writing to old writing to comedy to tragedy. That‘s what inspires me. excites me. I love the challenge and have a desire for versatility. to test. to ﬁnd out what‘s less familiar. what seems less comfortable to me and take it on.‘
He has already enjoyed a sufﬁciently wide variety of roles in his short career to feel conﬁdent enough to concentrate on Shakespeare — this is his fourth since 1991 — as a change from the restrained naturalism of film acting. ‘I love working on it because the language throws choices at you all the time.‘ he says. ‘The worlds in which he sets things — the spiritual. the emotional. the poetic — they‘re so rich. I do ﬁnd it nourishing doing it each time. It really does engage with your bonce as an actor in a way that I‘m afraid other stuff doesn't do. Instead of saying. “Ma mum‘s shagging ma uncle." you say. “To post with such dexterity the incestuous sheets“. a sentence absolutely loaded with beautiful coloured language that throws up possibilities.‘
Macbeth. Tron Theatre. Glasgow; Sat I —Sun IO May and touring to Dundee Rep.
ON FOLLOWING PAGES: VOLOANO THEATRE 0 STATION HOUSE OPERA 0 SMITH OUARTET
12 The List 23 April—6 May I993