The Scotsman Sessions #264: Colin McCredie and Ali Watt

Welcome to the award-winning Scotsman Sessions. With performing arts activity curtailed for the foreseeable future, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on, with introductions from our critics. Here, Colin McCredie and Ali Watt perform a scene from the current Pitlochry Festival Theatre production of Kenneth Grahame’s classic children’s story, The Wind In The Willows

Colin McCredie was only a little lad of ten – living with his family in Perth, back in the early 1980s – when his older sister Annie started working at Perth Theatre, eventually training as a stage manager; but her involvement with the local rep, then run by legendary artistic director Joan Knight, provided him with a passport into a magical world that he has never wanted to leave.

Annie’s boyfriend, and later husband, was the late, great comedy actor Andy Gray, also a Perth man; and through them, Colin had the chance to see on stage, and to meet, many leading Scottish actors, and to help with various jobs around the theatre. When Colin was a teenager, he and Ewan McGregor became the only two boys in Perth Theatre’s youth company; and when he left school in 1990, he went straight to the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow, where he was a contemporary of Kate Dickie and David Tennant.

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Within a couple of years of leaving the RSAMD, McCredie landed the key role of DC Stuart Fraser in the long-running detective series Taggart, becoming a well-known face in households across Scotland and beyond. He remained with Taggart for almost 15 years, while taking time out for occasional theatre shows; and since the series ended in 2010, his freelance career in stage and film has included highlights such as an appearance in the National Theatre of Scotland’s 2014 Dear Scotland show at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, and the thrill of playing Scrooge in Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s Christmas 2019 production of A Christmas Carol.

In this extract for the Scotsman Sessions, McCredie appears in the role of Mr Toad, the notorious motor-car loving hero of Kenneth Grahame’s much-loved Edwardian children’s story The Wind In The Willows, currently being staged daily on the riverside lawn in front of Pitlochry Festival Theatre. Dressed as a washerwoman, Toad has escaped from prison – where he was serving a sentence for reckless driving – and is trying to board a train back to Toad Hall; but he has forgotten that his money is in the pocket of the trousers he traded for his washerwoman’s smock.

Playing opposite Colin McCredie, as the railway guard, is Ali Watt, a young Scottish actor who grew up in Edinburgh, and underwent a full seven years of training as a solicitor, at Glasgow University and beyond, before taking up a place at Bristol Old Vic drama school, and fulfilling his dream of becoming an actor.

Since he returned to Scotland in 2014, Watt has appeared in plays ranging from Dundee Rep’s 2016 production of Much Ado About Nothing to Elizabeth Newman’s acclaimed 2019 staging of The Crucible at Pitlochry. Like McCredie, he is hugely appreciative of what artistic director Elizabeth Newman has been able to achieve in Pitlochry both before and during lockdown, and of the experience of being part of the Pitlochry ensemble; and this brief extract from one of the company’s current shows fully captures the playful and festive atmosphere on the Pitlochry riverbank, as Toad careers towards speed and modernity at any cost, only to find – in highly prescient style – that his behaviour has consequences, after all.

The Wind In The Willows is at Pitlochry Festival Theatre until 12 September,

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