SHE’S the budding actress whose biggest claim to fame had been a bit-part appearance in Scottish soap River City.
But city performer Debbie Cannon has landed her highest profile role yet – as the voice of Edinburgh Trams.
Thousands of commuters have now experienced the 42-year-old’s reassuring tones – warning of upcoming stops and welcoming passengers onto the service – since the network launched in May.
The mother-of-one may not be recognised in the street by hordes of fans, but she is a star to her tram-mad son David, 11, and is now one of the most-heard voices in the Capital.
“It still makes me jump every time I hear it on a tram,” she said. “Even though I know my voice is on there, it still gives me a little shock.”
The tram gig is a far cry from Debbie’s earlier roles since her career change from a previous incarnation as an archivist following a Medieval history PhD.
Debbie graced the Fringe playing a notorious Victorian socialite plotting to kill her husband and later worked as an extra hanging around a gossipy hairdresser’s on River City.
“I went back and trained as an actor about five years ago,” she said.
“I went to Edinburgh College, and I’ve been picking up bits of work as I can since I left.”
Debbie – who originally hails from Dundee – was talent-spotted to narrate Edinburgh’s tram announcements while delivering a talk on one of the Capital’s open-top tour buses. She has also recorded announcements for Lothian Buses.
“While I was at college, one of the jobs I had to support myself was working as a tour guide on Edinburgh tour buses, and I did some work recording tours they could use during the winter,” she said.Out of that came announcement recordings for the buses, and then they asked me to do the tram work as well.”
Childhood memories of her dad’s pictures showing Dundee’s former tram system still resonate with Debbie, but not so the Tayside twang.
“The Dundee accent can be quite distinctive,” she said. “I’ve been living in Edinburgh for eight years, so I’ve kind of adopted the local accent, but I did a lot of voice training when I went to college.”
Apart from tourists and visitors, few residents will have heard her voice before boarding a tram, but keen-eyed soap fanatics might remember her face as she was once an extra in River City. “I think I was in the background in the hairdressers,” she said.
Her other biggest role to date has been playing the notorious Madeleine Smith, a Victorian Glasgow socialite who was tried for the murder of a jilted lover, but not convicted. “It’s quite an interesting piece to be in,” Debbie said of her role playing the “wicked” side of the Smith’s personality in a Fringe production of I Promise I Shall Not Play Billiards.
Now she has been heard by thousands, she hopes her job as the voice of the tram will put her on track for more acting work on the silver screen.
“I’m hoping to try and push to get some film and TV work,” Debbie said. There’s one job she can be sure of landing if the tram is extended as far as Leith, but Debbie says she hasn’t begun practising “Next stop: Ocean Terminal”.
“I haven’t heard anything about that. I’ll just play it by ear,” she said.
Tom Norris, director and general manager at Edinburgh Trams, said: “Working with Debbie as the voice of the trams has been a real pleasure.
“She’s a true professional and I think our passengers really appreciate her tones as they make their way towards their destination.