ANDY Gray and Grant Stott are back at The King’s tonight... and there’s not a dame in sight.
The panto stars return in an extended version of Philip Meeks’ Fringe sell-out, Kiss Me Honey, Honey, and neither can hide their delight that an idea they first discussed a year ago, while sitting in Henrik’s after a performance of Cinderella, has not only won an award and toured Scotland, but achieved the greatest plaudit of all, an invitation to play the Old Lady of Leven Street.
“When Andy and I came up with this idea after panto one night, the whole thing came out of our friendship and being at the King’s,” says Stott.
“We hoped it would go well. We hoped it would sell out... it has done both. The icing on the cake is bringing it back to the King’s where, really, the whole idea began.”
In the play, which debuted at the Gilded Balloon during the Festival, Gray and Stott play Ross and Graham, two men of a certain age who form an unlikely friendship through a shared love of Shirley Bassey. Together, they begin a search for the women of their dreams, after their lives appear to have fallen apart.
Hilarious, there’s a dark edge just beneath the surface of this riotous, sometimes shambolic look at life, relationships and disappointment.
Gray grins, “I play Ross, the slightly older, good looking one. He’s a bit embittered with life, which is one of the reasons we wanted to do this play.
“It’s one of the things we talked about when we were looking for a writer and we were lucky enough to find Philip. We wanted to do a play about middle-aged men in Scotland; to investigate people who are lonely and a bit down on their luck because of relationship failures, and who then go out into the crazy world.”
He continues, “So things have not been too good for Ross and he ends up in this bedsit – Graham is in the room next door. Out of desperation, they decide to go on the speed-dating scene.”
In the best traditions of farce, the pair play not only the two bereft loners, but also the eclectic group of women they encounter along the way.
For Stott, in his first “serious” acting role, Graham has allowed the radio presenter to achieve a childhood dream. “Graham is very naive and not very worldly wise. He has lived a very sheltered life, brought up by his mum. He’s not got a bad bone in his body and is wet behind the ears. It’s a real contrast playing that wide-eyed innocence, compared with the growling, snarling Captain Hook we’ll see at Christmas.”
Stott has surprised many by his fine performance, but not his old mucker. “I have to say, he’s not surprising me,” says Gray, “Let’s face it, he’s always wanted to be an actor. He wanted to go to drama school but didn’t get in.”
“That’s a cold hard fact of reality,” confirms Stott. “It was always my was plan, pretty much from primary, to go to drama school and be an actor.
“At High School I sat with the careers officer in second year and said, ‘What do I need to get into drama college?’ They said, ‘Four O’ Grades and two Highers.’ I planned my entire schooling around achieving that, and I did. My plan only fell apart when I left school and got knocked by from every drama school I applied to.
He adds, “So it’s taken me a long time to actually get to do it but I’m a great believer in fate. Things happen for a reason; because I got knocked back from drama college I ended up joining the police for four years, then I left that and started working in radio and television, through doing children’s television I got into panto, and now finally this. So it’s all happened as I hoped, just through a bizarre route.”
And he confesses, “That said, this is easily the scariest thing I have ever done – there was so much riding on it. Both Andy and I put our necks on the line with this one.”
It certainly seems to have paid off for the pair, especially Stott who, to misquote the title of Shirley Bassey’s 1972 song, is giving “the greatest performance of his life”.
Kiss Me Honey, Honey, King’s Theatre, Leven Street, tonight and tomorrow, 8pm, £21.50, 0131-529 6000