Edward Reid tells how he became a diva to survive pub gigs

HOW can you not take to someone who's had the effrontery to appear on Britain's Got Talent singing the words of Old MacDonald to a Beyonce tune?

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Edward with Alison McGrail. Edward is starring as a dentist in Little Shop of Horrors at Websters Theatre in the West End   Pic: Jamie Simpson
Edward with Alison McGrail. Edward is starring as a dentist in Little Shop of Horrors at Websters Theatre in the West End Pic: Jamie Simpson

Edward Reid stunned the nation back in 2011, causing the BGT judges' jaws to drop. But there's more to Edward than shock value.

Now set to star in a production of Little Shop of Horrors at Glasgow's new Websters Theatre (formerly the Landsdowne Church at Kelvin Bridge), the entertainer is also remarkably honest.

Despite appearing supremely confident on television, the 37-year-old reveals it was all an act. And far from being a born performer, his showbiz leanings were kept in a locked closet.

"I didn't think about performing at all growing up in Coatbridge," he reveals, with a smile.

"Well, you couldn't could you? It was a bit like the Billy Elliot experience. If you had told someone you wanted to become a musical star they'd have thought there was something wrong with you.

"So it was all contained inside. It wasn't something I let myself even think about."

The younger Edward took to working in a day centre for people with learning difficulties. And while he enjoyed the work he gradually realised he wanted to be part of a different world and joined a local am-dram outfit.

"It was fantastic," he says. "I knew then this was what I wanted to do for a career."

But how? Luckily a new musical theatre course opened in Lanarkshire, and Edward signed up. He loved every moment of it and on graduation landed work on the cruise ships as part of the ents team.

"I worked for six months," he says of the ship stint. "What was great was the job took me to parts of the world I was never likely to see, such as Jamaica then crossing the Atlantic."

He adds, grinning: "I'd always wanted to see the world. But I was too scared to go back-packing. Here I was, doing it in style."

But back on dry land, work dried up. Edward was working as a waiter in a restaurant when a friend suggested he try singing in pubs.

"I was totally against the idea," he says, grinning. "For one thing, I was so under confident. But when she told me I could earn more in a night than I was getting for working a week as a waiter, I thought I'd give it a go."

Saying it was tough is as much an understatement as saying Beyonce scrubs up well.

"I was as important as the wallpaper," he recalls. "The punters ignored me. What I had to do was surrender my dignity and at the same time grow a backbone because the pub regulars were abusive.

"I'd get up there on stage and hear comments like 'Look at the poof!' And you'd see the punters sitting staring at you with the arms folded and seething anger on their faces."

Edward, who now lives in Dennistoun, developed a way of coping; he developed an act.

"I came up with this camp persona. I became a diva, in my head, and played it all up."

As the characters did in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert?

"Exactly like that," he says, laughing. "And I then went on tours of the social and bowling clubs and you know something, I began to win the audiences round. And it was validation."

He adds, in more serious voice: " I think I did more for gay rights than many activists. You see, when people applaud they don't think about sexuality."

Edward, however, didn't put himself up for BGT in 2011. "A friend did. I was totally against it because I was so scared of rejection, scared of being classed as a pub and club singer.

BUT then my friend said; 'If nothing else it will put 50 quid on to your pub wages.' And I thought 'That's petrol money. I'll do it!'"

And he did. And he didn't win, but he became talked about across the world, thanks to the likes of David Hasselhoff raving about the performance, the clever, astonishingly camp juxtaposition of pop classics with kiddies' nursery rhymes.

How did he think of the concept?

"That goes back to the days working with two guys with autism," he says. "They'd try and sing Old MacDonald, but it didn't quite came out right. But the power of nursery rhyme stuck with me."

Since BGT, Edward's gone on to appear in panto in Arbroath and star in two Edinburgh Fringe shows, winning Forth FM's Best Show Award.

Now he's starring in musical theatre in Glasgow with Inside Out Productions as the dentist Orin Scrivello in this tale of man-eating plants, secret love and murder.

"I can't believe it," he says of the opportunity. "But you know, I still have this lack of confidence at times. Sometimes I have to pinch myself I'm working in a job I really love."

n Little Shop of Horrors, Websters Theatre, Great Western Road, May 1 - 7.

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