OUTLANDER star Grant O’Rourke swaps Jacobean Scotland for the timeless world of the Venetian Twins at the Royal Lyceum this weekend.
All thoughts of Rupert MacKenzie, his fearsome character in the popular fantasy drama, will be cast aside for the next four weeks as O’Rourke takes on the dual roles of estranged twins Zanetto and Tonino in Carlo Goldoni’s comedy of mistaken identity.
Despite his new found international recognition, however, the actor admits it great to be back in the Capital, where he made some of his earliest stage appearances.
“The Lyceum is my favourite theatre to work in. Not only is it a beautiful theatre but everyone behind the scenes is so good at their jobs.
“That means as an actor you can focus on your performance and hopefully push yourself so that your work rises to that level too.
“I’ve had to do a lot of challenging things at The Lyceum and that’s been really key to my development as an actor in the last five years.”
O’Rourke is also looking forward to welcoming many of his new found fans to the Lyceum, he reveals.
“It’s great to know that people are seeing your work around the world.
“Outlander fans have got in touch with me from literally every continent. It’s nice to be a part of something that’s so adored and the show’s fan base is really supportive of us.
“They’re a lovely bunch. Some of them are coming from Canada, New Zealand, the USA, just to see the Venetian Twins. So it’ll be nice to see them and say hello.”
In The Venetian Twins, Zanetto and Tonino are unlike each other in every way... except that they look exactly the same. When they both arrive in the same town on the same day each seeking a bride-to-be, romantic entanglements soon become hopelessly confused.
Before lunchtime, insults, threats, proposals, offers of duels and boxes of jewels have all ended up in the wrong hands... sorting it all out in time for the weddings is going to be murder.
“Playing twins can be a challenge,” concedes O’Rourke.
“You want them to be different but they’re still brothers so there have to be some similarities. They definitely look alike though. I’ve nailed that part,” he laughs.
The Venetian Twins is a fitting production to bring the curtain down on the Lyceum’s 49th season.
As the company prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary, artistic director Mark Thomson explains: “50 years ago this autumn, Tom Fleming started the Capital’s first mid-scale theatre company with a big bold vision for the people of Edinburgh.
“They launched it with a hilarious play, Servant O’ Twa Maisters by Carlo Goldoni in playful Scots. And here we are a few months short of the anniversary of that first performance about to fill the theatre again with laughter thanks to another of Goldoni’s works in playful Scots.
“It sounds like a clever piece of programming. But the truth is Tony Cownie and I just felt we had great skilled comic actors to make it fly.”
Of course, the big news about the 50th anniversary is that it will bring together two of Scotland’s greatest living thespians on the Lyceum stage – Brian Cox and Bill Paterson will star in Waiting For Godot, this autumn.
Thomson says: “When I was fortunate enough to have Brian Cox and Bill Paterson get excited about playing the classic Waiting For Godot, then gold was definitely what was struck.
“I’m amazed they have never appeared on stage together before and that the Lyceum will be the first to unite them. They are two great Scots and actors who have inspired generations of young Scottish actors just as Brian Cox was inspired 50 years ago by others when he was in the very first Lyceum Theatre season.
“How can you not want to take the chance to see those two doing Samuel Beckett’s brilliant, funny and playful piece of landmark theatre?”
And Thomson admits that he is “immensely proud” to be at the helm for the Lyceum’s historic 50th anniversary season.
He has but one regret, that the man who started it all is not around to share in the occasion.
“I wish Tom Fleming was around. I’d love to have asked him what he thought and whether the Lyceum became the thing he wanted it to become.
“But, for lack of that, all I have to go on is if it succeeds in taking its place in the people of Edinburgh’s lives over the next year; gives them a good laugh, makes them think about themselves and the world, and shows them things they’ve never seen before.”
He thinks for a moment and then adds, “In some ways I’ve distilled good theatre down to a single thing: it makes you feel more alive.
“And the many ways in which it does this... well some of them can be seen in the adventure we’re about to embark on to honour and celebrate an important and loved part of Edinburgh.”
The Venetian Twins, Royal Lyceum, Grindlay Street, until May 16, 7.30pm (matinees 2pm), £12.50-£29, 0131-248 4848