RAB C Nesbitt star Gregor Fisher has admitted he had to be talked into taking on the role of a 100-year-old grandmother - by his own family.
The actor, who has been given the lead role in the National Theatre of Scotland’s biggest ever comedy, has revealed his son Jamie persuaded him to return to the stage.
“I’ve been reading the script. I’ve read it and read it and read it. It’s very funny.”Gregor Fisher
Fisher plays a “diabolical” matriarch causing financial mayhem for the rest of her Scots-Italian family who live with her above their closed-down fish and chip shop in 1970s Central Scotland.
He revealed he was initially wooed for the role by his long-time Rab C Nesbitt co-star Barbara Rafferty, who had already been cast in “Yer Granny”, which will get its world premiere in Greenock next month before going on a nationwide tour.
Fisher, who previously portrayed Ma Broon from “The Broons” comic strip in an episode of the BBC sketch show Naked Video, also told an audience at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh that he had a long-held fascination with playing characters in drag.
Fisher was speaking at an NTS “meet the artists” event, where key members of the cast and creative team revealed the inside story behind the show, an adaptation of Argentina’s most famous play, “La Nona.”
The script, described by NTS’s artistic director Laurie Sansom as the funniest new work has ever read, has been penned by one of Scotland’s leading playwrights, Douglas Maxwell. He has relocated the action from Buenos Aires to Cumbernauld, in 1977, the year of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.
Fisher will be playing a grandmother whose ravenous appetite is said to have forced her family into bankruptcy, drugs and even prostitution.
The 61-year-old said: “This really came about when Barbara Rafferty phone me up and asked me about this granny part. She said: ‘There’s not that many words.’
“I asked her what the money was like and she said: ‘There’s not that many pounds either, but we might have a laugh.’
“I’ve always been quite fond of drag in one form or another. When I played Ma Broon I had an interesting chest arrangement. I had to wear a very large bra with a kind of broth mixture in it. It gave me a bit of movement. I might repeat that for this.
“I don’t really know this grandma yet, as we’ve not started rehearsals yet, but I’ve been reading the script. I’ve read it and read it and read it. It’s very funny.
“I’ve not done a proper play for something like 25 years. My youngest son Jamie said to me: ‘Dad, it’s good to scare yourself every now and again. It’s good for you.’ He told me to do it. That’s basically why I’m here. But I’m looking forward to it.”
Rafferty said: “All the characters are so beautifully bloated. The women are not afraid to be big and bold and crazy and dirty.
“We did a workshop on the show last year and actually couldn’t stop laughing because it was so funny.”
Director Graham McLaren said the show, partly inspired by a 1991 BBC adaptation of La Nona with Les Dawson in the titular role, was initially instigated as “an austerity comedy.”
He added: “The idea of doing an adaptation of the play has been kicking around NTS for a few years. We managed to a literal translation of the original done and we felt there was something really thrilling in it. At that point I begged Douglas to start working on a new version.
“The grandmother character is literally eating her family out of house and home. The play is about the extraordinary lengths to which they go to keep this woman sated.
“I felt very strongly that it should be set in Scotland in the late 1970s, when there was a real kind of energy around. The brief was no more than that.
“I was at home with my daughter when I first read Douglas’s script. She actually thought I was being attacked I was laughing so much.”
Ayrshire-born Maxwell revealed he had initially turned down the project, as had never heard of the original play and was not keen on adapting anyone else’s work.
However he said: “When I read it, I really loved it. I wrote the adaptation quite quickly. It’s amazing how much fun writing a play is when someone’s already done it!”
Yer Granny opens at The Beacon arts centre in Greenock on 19 May and will go on tour to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness and Dundee.