Special brew of acting talent in comedy play

IS THERE anything better than the thought of a sweet little old lady being murdered?

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  • Cast members, from left, Andrew Byatt, Kay Gallie and Jimmy ChisholmPicture: Colin Templeton
    Cast members, from left, Andrew Byatt, Kay Gallie and Jimmy ChisholmPicture: Colin Templeton
  • Cast members, from left, Andrew Byatt, Kay Gallie and Jimmy ChisholmPicture: Colin Templeton

In theatre comedy terms, of course.

This week's Oran Mor play Auntie Agatha Comes To Tea tells the story of less-than-affectionate Aberdonian brothers Damien (Andrew Byatt) and Martin (Jimmy Chisholm), who do not see very much of their elderly Aunt Agatha.

But we discover their business is in difficulties.

And while Auntie Agatha (Kay Gallie) has wisdom, experience, and money, it's the money the brothers want to focus on.

They know if they hang around long enough, there's a chance they will inherit her cash.

But the brothers are not too enthusiastic about the wait, so they decide the time is right to invite her round for a "fly cup."

And the contents of the cup, you can imagine won't be your usual brew.

However, during the visit, revelations unfold, attitudes change, consciences rise and sink. But does Auntie Agatha swallow what the brothers are offering up?

"This is very much an Ealing Comedy-type play," says Jimmy.

"When you read George Milne's play you think of Arsenic and Old Lace, the sort of thing Alec Guinness would be appearing in.

"And it's really good fun to do.

"My character carries his older brother along in this adventure to murder the old lady, but there's a twist when we learn the little old auntie once set up drugs deals while the other brother was at secondary school.

"He got the blame for it, so then he wants to become the one who kills the auntie."

Jimmy adds; "It's been great to see how the brothers' attitudes change, and to be able to play that out."

Jimmy Chisholm is one of Scotland's best theatre actors, almost an ever-present on stage, having gained incredible experience over almost 40 years in the business working, for example, at the RSC, and the National with the likes of Dame Judi Dench and Sir Anthony Hopkins.

Growing up in Inverness as one of six kids, he knew in 1973 when, aged 16, a play came to town: The Cheviot, the Stag and The Black, Black Oil, starring Bill Paterson and John Bett that he wanted to become a professional actor.

Interestingly, this week's play is in fact directed by John Bett.

"What's incredible is theatre allows you the chance to meet up with old friends," he enthuses. I've worked with John since in the Para Handy revivals and I've also worked with the fantastic Kay Gallie, way back in the eighties at the Tron Theatre.

Kay Gallie is an actress who has shown in River City, playing the role of gangster matriarch Agnes, how she can shift through the gears effortlessly from benign to malevolent.

It will be beguiling to see her switch moods in this piece, as auntie Agatha reveals she's more switched on that expected.

Jimmy however is looking forward to be being back on stage after a stint directing panto at the King's Theatre.

He reveals he loved every moment of the experience.

Well, almost every moment.

"I suppose part of me wanted to be up there on stage. But then Steven McNicol who played the Chinese Policeman had to pull out through illness and I had to go on and cover for him.

"The problem was the script had changed so much from the rehearsal period and by the time I came to go on stage I didn't know the lines.

"I was struggling. And the fear set in. But thankfully the other actors helped me out."

You sense Jimmy Chisholm wouldn't struggle for two long. He's so relaxed on stage he could ad-lib his way out of a straight jacket.

But he reveals he may have an opportunity to return to the television screen.

"I've just been filming a new sitcom pilot for the BBC," he says, delightedly.

"It's called Miller's Creek and it's about a mountain rescue team. But this lot like to drink. A lot. Put it this way, you wouldn't want you life to be dependent upon these guys finding you. It's a lovely piece of writing and also stars David Ireland, Kevin Guthrie and Sharon Rooney. The pilot will be screened soon and let's hope the ratings are good and it runs to a series."

Meantime, it's time to focus on murder most foul.

"How can you go wrong with a story about killing a sweet, little old lady?" he says, grinning.

n Auntie Agatha Comes To Tea, Oran Mor, until Saturday.

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