Liam Brennan back at Royal Lyceum with Union

Liam Brennan as the Duke of Queensberry in Union. Pic: Comp
Liam Brennan as the Duke of Queensberry in Union. Pic: Comp
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EVERY year, the Royal Lyceum produce at least one new piece by a Scottish writer, plays such as Tim Barrow’s Union, which opens at the Grindlay Street theatre this evening.

“Works like these are very important and it’s right that the Lyceum, being here in the Capital city, should be doing new Scottish work and encouraging new Scottish writers,” says audience favourite Liam Brennan, who returns to the company after a break of two years.

In Union, he plays the Duke of Queensberry and... a tea salesman.

The actor who has spent the last five months on Broadway, says, “Ah, the Welsh tea seller, he is used to introduce Queen Anne. We meet him doing his best to interest her in some exotic teas - it doesn’t go down too well,” he laughs.

Brennan’s Broadway adventure (he was playing the Globe’s hit double-bill of Twelfth Night and Richard III, with Mark Rylance and Stephen Fry) was, “fantastic,” he says.

“It’s the first time I have appeared on Broadway and we had a lot of people in to see us, from Steven Spielberg to Joan Rivers, who surprised me by how interested she was in the independence referendum.

“Actually, more people than I expected were quite clued up about the referendum.”

Under the tag line, ‘Two Nations. Like Oil And Water, They Cannot Mix,’ Union tells the story of the original union of Scotland and England in 1707.

An energetic romp through the raucous taverns just off the Royal Mile, Kensington Palace, and the Scottish Parliament, Union features a host of historical figures, including Daniel Defoe, Queen Anne, and Scottish poet Allan Ramsay, who finds love with Grace, a prostitute in the bawdy and dangerous world of 18th century Edinburgh.

“I did a reading of this play two years ago and just loved the script,” reveals Brennan.

“I remember thinking at the time, I really hope this happens. Tim has done a great job. It’s a rich and bawdy script. Hopefully it will fill the stage, it is very bold.”

The actor believes the forthcoming referendum will give the piece a deeper resonance than it might otherwise have had.

“I hope it makes it more relevant,” he says. “Tim has researched it really well and it’s very interesting to be involved in an investigation of what actually went on in 1707, in the year of the referendum.”

However, he confesses that bringing his characters to life for this production has been quite a journey.

“It’s lovely to be back at the Lyceum. I can hardly believe it’s been two years since I was last here,” he says.

“Broadway was fantastic but I was there for so long it has taken some adjustment.

“I literally came straight into this - I got off the plane at Heathrow, onto a flight to Edinburgh, and then walked straight into the rehearsal room.

“I was a bit wonky for a couple of days but luckily, I don’t seem to get jet-lag as badly as other people.”

Union, Royal Lyceum, Grindlay Street, until 12 April, 7.45pm (matinees 2.30pm), £12-£27.50, 0131-248 4848