Stanley Baxter leads the chorus for Edinburgh's Kings Theatre on BBC
WHEN Grant Stott was six years old he was taken to the King's Theatre by his granny to see the singer Peter Morrison.
That trip sparked a love for the stage that has led to the Edinburgh-born broadcaster and professional panto villain to make a one-off radio show that documents the history of the theatre ahead of its £25 million facelift.
The one-hour special, The Old Lady of Leven Street, airs tomorrow on BBC Radio Scotland at 12.30pm and is a loving look back at the stars who have treaded the boards in the historical cultural venue, including Grant’s personal idol, Stanley Baxter.
Grant said: “I grew up watching Stanley on telly. He was such a big star throughout the 70s and 80s with his TV shows and exploits so to find myself knocking on his door and being ushered into his house was a very surreal moment in my life and one I’ll never forget.”
Meeting his hero wasn’t a let down for Grant who spent two hours being regaled by the 92-year-old’s tales.
Grant said: “He was a delight. He’s not as sprightly as he was but he’s still got that twinkle in his eye.
“He seemed genuinely thrilled that people were actually interested in him and in his career after all these years.”
Grant has taken inspiration from the comedian who mastered the art of pantomime villainry in his own performances.
He said: “[Stanley] told me a story about how he broke the line between bad and good when he played an ugly sister in Cinderella at the King’s. He used the word ‘comfae’ [instead of come from] at the very end of a sentence which garnered a huge laugh after the whole theatre had been holding its breath.
“It was his use of the Scottish dialect and accents which he used to great success which I also like to try and use when I’m up there as a villain.”
The planned closure of the King’s in 2021 for extensive refurbishment is vital, according to Grant.
He said: “The King’s Theatre is so important for the Scottish cultural landscape.
“You can’t underestimate the calibre of stars who have appeared there - Maria Callas, Laurence Olivier and all the great Scottish names like Ricky Fulton, Jack Milroy, Stanley Baxter and Jimmy Logan.
“I can’t stress how important [the refurbishment] is. It’s in a state now that either the King’s continues or it doesn’t. It’s that black or white.”
Grant passed the theatre every day on the way to school and would peer through the windows at the photographs in the foyer and now plays there two months of every year in panto.
He said: “It’s a second home to me now and it’s a very special place to me and my family.
“As a child I would walk past and imagine how brilliant it would be to do a show there.
“It was the one place I dreamed of playing as a kid.”
But there’s work to be done, he says, to ensure the theatre not only survives, but thrives.
He said: “If the refurbishment doesn’t happen then the King’s can’t continue. It’s not a case of let’s just make it look nice but it’s vitally important for disabled people to get access to ensure its success as a thriving theatre so it can attract big shows and stars.
“We need to make it a building that’s open for all.”