JANE McCarry, like her alter-ego Isa Drennan, is still game. Right now, she is back amongst old friends – Gavin Mitchell, Paul Riley, Sanjeev Kohli, Mark Cox, and, of course, Greg Hemphill and Ford Kiernan, as the inhabitants of Craiglang are reunited after six years in the wilderness.
It’s a case of coming full circle for Still Game, the much loved BBC Scotland sitcom, which ran for 44 episodes between 2002 and 2008.
Still Game actually started life as a three-hand stage play in which Jack Jarvis, Victor McDade and Winston Ingram, trapped in their high rise due to a out-of-order lift, mused on life, death and sex.
The new stage-play, currently enjoying a record-breaking run at the SSE Hydro, Glasgow, its only Scottish dates, opened last week, running until October 10.
Surrounded by Coke bottles, all bearing the name “Isa”, a task that no doubt kept one of the show’s press assistants busy, McCarry, who trained at the Capital’s Queen Margaret University, reveals the regulars couldn’t wait to get back together.
“We had a few read-throughs at Greg’s house so we all knew the script and what was coming up.
“We couldn’t wait. We didn’t have to sit and analyse our characters as you’d normally do in the rehearsal room, we all knew the journey and fell straight back into our characters.”
Laughing, she confesses, “Well, we are all a bit typecast, it wasn’t a great leap.”
Safe to say then that, as in the TV series, if anything happens in Osprey Heights, nosey neighbour Isa is sure to have all the gossip. The latest instalment finds Victor and Jack tackling modern technology in the form of an iPad.
Jack’s daughter is renewing her vows and the boys want to contact her... except she’s on the other side of the Atlantic, which is where Boaby the barman’s iPad comes in.
“It’s quite a lovely story really,” says McCarry, still obviously over-awed by the reaction the show has garnered.
What was supposed to be a four-night run has been expanded into a 21-night run, not to mention matinee performances, each accommodating 12,000 people. That’s a potential audience of more than a quarter of a million. The “arena sitcom” has arrived.
“When you are back-stage and you hear the noise of the music... boom, boom, boom. My heart goes like a train.
“It’s amazing, the most emotional, amazing experience ever,” says McCarry, who famously tweeted a picture of her foot clad in Isa’s trademark tights as she donned her costume for the first time in six years.
“There are loads of references to the fact we’ve been away for so long but being set in sitcom-land it doesn’t really matter. It’s just like watching another episode. We are all still stuck exactly where we were all those years ago.
“We were all dead excited getting back into costume. I had my good coat back, the one Isa got from the money-lender, although a lot of the costumes had been dumped because they were fusty. They had to be replaced.”
McCarry, who despite having just turned 41, has carved a niche for herself playing older characters – a younger generation know her as Balamory’s Granny Murray – never auditioned for the role of Isa, in fact, you could say it was written specially for her.
“I knew the boys really well. We had worked on the sketch show Pulp Video together. It had some great bits in it and there was one sketch in which I played a home-help, Isa came from her,” she explains.
“She was an amalgamation of people. There’s a lady who works in the shop around the corner from me, her clothes are definitely like Isa’s. There’s a lot of my Aunty Jean in there, and my Aunty Maisie – because I had older parents a lot of my aunts were like Isa, and my mum and dad’s chat is like listening to Jack and Victor and Isa.”
The popularity of the stage show has taken her by surprise the actress admits, revealing it has brought her more attention than the TV series ever did.
“Out and about now, everybody recognises me and wants to talk about the show. That has never happened before. There was always the odd person, but now it’s mental.”
The secret of that success is simple she believes.
“It’s like seeing a family you love for the first time in years. People are shouting out, they want you to know they’re there. It’s like they have always felt close to you and missed you. When you go out on stage, it feels like everybody wants to give you a cuddle. It’s magic. The best feeling ever.”
Which begs the question: New TV series, yes or no?
“The boys have been quite open talking about it but I don’t know what has been set in stone,” the actress says. “However, we work so well together, and the writing in this is dynamite, to not do it again would be such a shame.”
Chances are, if it does go ahead, Isa will be first to hear about it on the grapevine.
Still Game, SSE Hydro, Glasgow, until 10 October, 7.30pm (matinees 2.30pm), £30-£45, 0141-248 3000