Brian Cox nurtures new talent as Scotsman awards host

Actor Brian Cox presides over the Scotsman Fringe Awards. Picture: Neil Hanna
Actor Brian Cox presides over the Scotsman Fringe Awards. Picture: Neil Hanna
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HOLLYWOOD star Brian Cox took time out from rehearsing for his return to the stage for the Scotsman Fringe Awards – and admitted rehearsals have already left him exhausted.

The Scottish acting legend, preparing to appear in Waiting for Godot in Edinburgh next month, presided over the annual ceremony in the Famous Spiegeltent and handed over the final round of the newspaper’s coveted Fringe First awards.

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour collect their Scotsman Fringe Award. Picture: Neil Hanna

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour collect their Scotsman Fringe Award. Picture: Neil Hanna

He has been locked away in rehearsals with fellow Scot Bill Paterson for the curtain-raiser to the 50th anniversary season at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, which will also star Benny Young and John Bett.

The Dundee-born star admitted he was experiencing the “most bizarre feeling” being at the Edinburgh Festival half a century on from his arrival in the city to become a founding member of the new Lyceum company. But he told the audience of performers, producers and venue managers that he was finding the rehearsal process “very hard on the brain”.

Speaking yesterday, Cox, 69, said: “It is very difficult. It’s a very complicated text. The cast have around 280 years between them. It is very hard on the brain. We’re managing, but it’s probably going to be the most geriatric production of Waiting for Godot that you’ve ever seen. We’re getting there and we’re working hard, but it has just been exhausting.

“I’ve seen very little this month, apart from (plays by) Simon McBurney and Robert Lepage, and the show my son Alan is in, Impossible, in which he plays Harry Houdini, which I had to see.”

Cox is best known for his film roles, including the first Hannibal Lecter film Manhunter, X-Men 2, the Bourne movies, Troy, Adaptation and Rob Roy.

He left Dundee at the age of 17 to study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, before joining the Lyceum. He went on to enjoy a hugely successful stage career, including regular appearances with the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Cox said of his return to the Lyceum: “It is the most bizarre feeling.

“I can remember so vividly arriving here at exactly this time 50 years ago. We started rehearsing The Servant O’ Twa Maisters in the last two weeks of the Edinburgh Festival with Russell Hunter, Una McLean, Tom Conti and Eileen McCallum.

“It was an amazing company and an amazing experience. It’s very poignant being back here because there are all these ghosts and it has just gone by like that.”

The awards ceremony saw a number of Fringe shows secure a new life after Edinburgh.

Female theatre group Open Clasp, whose play Key Change is based on the real-life experiences of women behind bars, will be staging it in New York in January after winning philanthropist Carol Tambor’s annual award. It created the production – which is in Summerhall’s programme – with the help of inmates at Low Newton prison in Durham.

Writer Catrina McHugh said: “We aim to change the world one play at a time and this award changes our world. It was a huge decision to come up to the Edinburgh Festival for the first time.

“There was a huge cost and there were many risks, but to win this is more than we could have dreamed of. We would like to dedicate the award to the women we worked with in Low Newton prison. If they hadn’t put their trust in us we wouldn’t have had this success.”

Two shows are heading to the Adelaide Fringe next year after sharing the Holden Street Theatres Award – Gary McNair’s A Gambler’s Guide to Dying, which is at the Traverse and Joe Sellman-Leava’s Pleasance show Labels. Both shows won Fringe First awards this month.

McNair used the occasion to highlight the ongoing campaign to revive The Arches, the long-running Glasgow arts centre, which was closed down after long-running police concerns.

He said: “The Arches has been so important to me as an artist over the last 10 years and I’m just a drop in the ocean. It’s beyond crucial that we keep talking about the need for that building to exist. It simply has to happen.”

AWARD WINNERS

Fringe First Awards

A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing - Corn Exchange (Traverse)

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour - National Theatre of Scotland/Live Theatre

A Reason To Talk - Sachli Gholamalizad (Summerhall)

Longing Lasts Longer - Penny Arcade (Underbelly)

What I Learned From Johnny Bevan - Luke Wright (Summerhall)

Musical Theatre Network Development Award

Weekend Rockstars - Middle Child (Underbelly)

Brighton Fringe Award

Police Cops - This Theatre (Zoo Southside)

Holden Street Theatres Award

A Gambler’s Guide To Dying - Gary McNair (Show & Tell/Traverse)

Labels - Joe Sellman-Leava (Pleasance)

Carol Tambor Award

Key Change - Open Clasp (Northern Stage/Summerhall)