Andy baldly goes into the future

YOU have to do a double take on meeting Andy Gray.

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Andy Gray had to shave his head for a role in The Waterbabies, and he has also starred as a bald villain in a new movie  Picture:  Colin Templeton  Inset, Andy before the visit to the barber
Andy Gray had to shave his head for a role in The Waterbabies, and he has also starred as a bald villain in a new movie Picture: Colin Templeton Inset, Andy before the visit to the barber

Gone is the dark hair, and the head on top of the six-foot body is as shiny as a polished beach pebble.

But why would Scotland's top comedy actor shed the locks he once boasted back in City Lights sitcom days?

Could he be lining himself up for a Daddy Warbucks role in Annie, next year's theatre show starring his pal, Elaine C.Smth?

"No, I've been doing The Waterbabies," he says of the musical theatre version of Charles Kingsley's Victorian fantasy.

"I had to shave my head for the part. And overall, it was a great challenge.

"When I do panto I don't do real dancing - the choreographer works around me - but for this I had to learn to dance. It was great to be able to learn a new skill."

Andy has also been making a film, Time Teens - the Movie.

"It's a great wee idea, about people who jump back and forward in time stealing from museums. I got to play the baldy baddy. And I had lots of fun, with lots of chasing and fighting."

The film is being made for the internet, with the hope of selling it on as a TV series.

"The likes of Tom McGovern, Liam Brennan and lots of other very good actors have been working for nothing. It's really got potential."

Gray is not the type of actor who'll sit around waiting for the phone to ring. The Perth-born star has long realised the business is so cash-strapped you have to be pro-active.

And the decision to take your career in your own hands works. Last year, Andy and panto pal Grant Stott decided they wanted to work at the Edinburgh Festival. So they made it happen.

"Years ago, theatre producers like Eddie Jackson at Borderline would have found plays for us to do, but companies like that don't have the cash.

"So we approached Karen Koren at the Gilded Balloon in Edinburgh and she brought in Philip Meeks to write a script.

"We gave Phillip an outline: it was to feature two men of our age, and it should address male issues. So he came up with this play Kiss Me Honey Honey, set in a bedsit apartment, about two lonely guys with problems who go on the internet and try speed dating to find a partner.

"And we discover there's a Shirley Bassey connection."

Andy added: "Grant is a really good pal and I think this friendship really comes across in the play. There's a point where our characters fall out, and the audiences are disappointed."

Andy and Grant's spirit paid off - big time. The show won a Fringe First, packed out the Edinburgh Festival and, as a result, is coming back this year.

"It's likely to be the last hurrah for the play," he says, "so it's the last chance if anyone wants to come see it."

ANDY'S on-stage relationship with Grant will continue next year. The pair will return to the Festival, this time in a biographical piece by Ian Pattison which promises to be the most talked about play of next year.

"I can't reveal details yet," says Andy, smiling, "but when Ian sent me the script I loved it right away. I wasn't sure how Grant would feel about it because it's quite dangerous, but he loved it as much as me."

He adds of the production: "I think it will be fasten your seatbelts folks, and hold on."

Andy Gray has also long been an Oran Mor favourite, either directing plays at the lunchtime theatre or starring in them.

"I love the fact I'll be back at Oran Mor this next season, in a new Lesley Hart play," he says, the delight in his voice evident.

"I'm getting to do lots of things, to direct, to appear in musicals. And there's panto in Edinburgh at the end of the year, with Grant of course. I'll be Wishy Washee in Aladdin."

Andy may have proven himself as a terrific TV actor, however he's resigned to the fact TV may not come calling with continual offers.

"I can't remember the last time I was up for a role," he admits.

"I think it was when I went down to London for an audition for Lip Service to play a fifty year old who was cynical about the acting business.

"I knew I was perfect for the part. And the writer liked me, but I felt when I talked to the director I had too much to say. I think it's not great to have opinions in the business."

Andy adds in defiant voice: "But I refuse to go up for jobs like Man-In-Bus-Stop in the likes of Outlander. I've done all that.

"So my feeling is you have to plug away at other things. And theatre is where the heat is at the moment."

He adds, with a wry grin: "If there's telly out there that's right for me, well great.

"But if not, I'll still be busy. And happy."

Kiss Me Honey, Honey

The Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh August 17-20 at 19:30 and 23-24 at 16:30.

Arts and Entertainment

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