George Costigan talks Crime And Punishment

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GEORGE Costigan. You might not know the name, but you’ll know the face. In Scott & Bailey he was Joe Bevan, in Homefront, Sgt Howard Raveley. Before that, he appeared in Casualty as no fewer than four different characters.

His soap credits include Emmerdale and the cop shows in which he has featured are too numerous to mention. He once even battled Kylie in a Christmas episode of Doctor Who.

George Costigan in Crime and Punishment. Picture: Tim Morozzo

George Costigan in Crime and Punishment. Picture: Tim Morozzo

So it’s safe to say that, as Costigan takes to the Lyceum stage in Crime and Punishment, you may well recognise him.

One of the greatest novels ever written, Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment gets inside the mind of starving, destitute student Raskolnikov.

Surrounded by the harsh injustices of the world, only Sonya, a downtrodden prostitute, offers him hope of redemption. As he enters a dangerous cat and mouse game, a psychological thriller unfolds. How far will one man go when driven by disillusionment?

“The reason this play works is because people come to the theatre to be told a good story, and this is just a great story,” says Costigan.

“The reason we have all heard of Crime and Punishment is because Dostoyevsky is really good – his story reverberates with us because it is about human beings.”

He continues, “It’s an odd one really, because not too many of us ever seriously consider murder, which is what happens in the play.

“If we do, having considered it we don’t act on it. So you would think there would be nothing to relate to, but that is not the case. You end up sympathising and almost fearing for him.”

Despite his extensive TV credits, and not forgetting his titular role in the acclaimed 1987 British film Rita, Sue, and Bob Too, Costigan is no stranger to the stage.

“When I did Rita, Sue, and Bob Too I had no idea that I’d eventually meet children, born after it was made, who would be able to quote great, huge chunks of it to me,” he says. “It means something fantastic happened, but you have no sense of that at the time.”

Another iconic role created by Costigan was that of Mickey Johnstone in Willy Russell’s hit musical, Blood Brothers, although the actor admits, it wasn’t always the success it is today.

“It’s a great piece of work. But my fondest memory Blood Brothers was a matinee we did with just 66 people in. The management were all sat in the front three rows of the theatre... with 900 empty seats behind them.

“For no rational reason, the whole company really went for this performance, and we were really, really good,” he laughs, “It was the only standing ovation we got in six months.

“Twenty years later, I met someone who had seen that matinee and I asked her, ‘Were we really that good?’”

He’s relieved to report that the answer was “Yes”.

Of all Costigan’s credits, however, he names one, without a second’s hesitation, as the highlight of his career – Roxanne, a transvestite grass in the TV series The Bill, a role originally played by Paul O’Grady, back in the days when he was better known as Lily Savage.

“Paul did the same character nine years before me, and then they decided to bring her back but Paul said he didn’t want to do it. So they got me. I had the most amazing time. I can’t tell you.”

The father of three continues, “I keep a diary of most jobs and I kept a diary of that one... I could edit it into a 200-page book because the experience was so ridiculously rich. Every single moment was amazing as you try to imagine what it is like to be a different sex and, of course, you can’t.

“I kept phoning Paul and all he would say was, ‘You’ll have a f***ing great time’.

“But he did have some really smart hints. He said, ‘You must have cuffs that are too big for you so that your arms look thinner.’ Stuff like that, but then he dressed up for half his life.

“That was the most work I ever did and I absolutely loved 
it.”

Crime And Punishment, Lyceum, Grindlay St, until 9 November, 7.45pm, £12-£27.50, 0131-248 4848