WHEN Scott Williamson attended the Citadel Youth Centre’s weekly Career’s Cafe just under a year ago, his intention was to pursue a profession in child care.
A year later, he’s carving a livelihood as an actor for himself with two plays, a short film and a TV role under his belt.
It’s a change in direction the 18-year-old could never have predicted two years ago.
He recalls, “At that careers cafe, Willy Barr, the manager of the Citadel Youth Centre, came up to a few of us and explained that a play called Fleeto was about to happen. They were wondering if a few of the boys at the centre would be interested in taking part, playing gang members.”
Just 17 at the time, Williamson had until then thought of acting as ‘silly’ and admits that he only agreed to take part was because the job was paid.
“I had no interest in theatre whatsoever and the only reason I did it was because they offered to pay us and all I had to do was stand in the background, shout, and then run about the stage being really hyper.”
What he didn’t realise was that the play, produced by Tumult In The Clouds Theatre Company, would open with a performance for MSPs at the Scottish Parliament.
“I was proper scared before going on,” he confesses, “but the thing that got to me was, after the show, people came up to me to say how much they enjoyed it, how much it inspired them and how they got the message.”
Inspired himself, Williamson then acted and directed his own short film What Do You See?, a piece about knife crime and anti-social behaviour, funded by the Citadel and Junction Drop-In Centre.
“We’d spoken about doing it before but the experience of acting in Fleeto gave me the confidence to chuck myself in at the deep end and do it,” says the former Fort Primary and Leith Academy pupil.
That short film was noticed by the producers of Doors Open, the ITV movie of Ian Rankin’s novel of the same name, which was broadcast on Boxing Day last year.
“They’d heard about the short film and contacted the Citadel explaining they needed some extras,” explains Williamson, who suddenly found himself working on the production alongside the likes of Douglas Henshall, Stephen Fry and Brian McCardie.
“I only expected to be in the background but they came up with this part and wondered who was up for it. I thought to myself, ‘This is a good opportunity to show what I can do’.”
Before he knew it, the young Leither was cycling past one of the gangsters in the piece, shouting expletives as he went.
“That was a lot of fun. I honestly never thought I’d get paid to shout abuse at anyone,” he laughs.
Next for Williamson was the sequel to Fleeto, a play called Wee Andy, which again saw him thrown in at the deep end, this time playing the title role just 20 minutes after being shown the script.
What made it all the more nerve-wracking was the fact that the performance was for an audience of young offenders at Polmont Prison.
“I thought I was just going to be an extra in that too, but on the day they were a person short and they asked me play Wee Andy himself. They gave me a script and 20 minutes to go through it and remember the whole play.”
Luckily Wee Andy didn’t have much to say, instead reacting to the action taking place around him.
“I was shaking with nerves before I went on but once it started, and the audience started to react, it settled me down. I realised they were taking in the story.”
With all though’s of working in child care now firmly banished, Williamson reprised his roles in Fleeto and Wee Andy at the Traverse this week, as part of the Imaginate Festival.
Obviously pleased with the way things are going, Williamson says, “Not that long ago I could never have imagined myself doing this but now I can’t wait to do more.”
His ambition is to play a gangster in EastEnders, he reveals, watch out Albert Square, there could soon be a new kid on the block, and all because of Citadel Youth Centre’s Careers Cafe.
Futureheads Careers Cafe (for 15-21 year olds), Citadel Arts Centre, Commercial Street, 12.30pm-2.30pm, 0131-554 0510