Love story

LESLEY Hart smiles as it's pointed out the last time I saw her she was wearing nothing but an earnest expression.

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  •  Love with a Capital 'L'  featuring Lesley Hart and Benny Young Photo by Mark Mainz
    Love with a Capital 'L' featuring Lesley Hart and Benny Young Photo by Mark Mainz
  • Love with a Capital 'L' featuring Lesley Hart and Benny Young Photo by Mark Mainz

Her policewoman's uniform was lying on the floor, cast off in a moment of quiet defiance and a bright light shone on her modesty.

"No, that was the time before," she says, smiling.

"The last time, I was a police­woman I kept my clothes on."

Yes, she's right. The kit came off in oddball play Dalgety and the next Oran Mor appearance on stage was in prisoner-cop comedy drama, Guilty.

The Stonehaven-born actor is in demand again however at Oran Mor this week, starring in Love With A Capital 'L'.

It's a new drama by Tony Cox that tells of an early 30s meeting between BBC Director General John Reith (Benny Young) and Hilda Mathieson, the lady who pioneered talk radio in radio journalism.

Mathieson was also a member of the Bloomsbury Set, the liberal group of writers and intellectuals, artists such as Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West.

Mathieson and Reith meet in the play because he's concerned about a broadcast going out featuring Vita Sackville-West, with whom Mathieson was having a lesbian affair.

It's a story of changing sensibilities, of social mores of the period, which holds a mirror up to how we look at same-sex relationships today.

"It's also about our view of love," says Lesley. "And it really opens up the concept of marriage and relationships. It also looks at where women were at in society. At this point they still couldn't vote until they were 30."

Lesley is clearly excited by the challenge of the role. What's evident is this is a 35 year-old who loves to go on a journey of discovery.

Well, she would have to, given she's single-handedly managed to re-define the term 'intimate theatre'.

She must be very brave?

"I don't feel that it was so brave," she says of appearing on stage naked, just feet away from the audience, many of whom were friends.

"It's just what you do and in a sense it's quite liberating. And it's not physically hard to do. It's not like playing the harp on stage."

She adds: "In fact I loved the idea of it. I like taking risks and it appeals to my sense of mischief. And I've been naked on stage in the past."

Lesley once starred in David Greig's play Outlying Islands, with Sam Heughan, in which the pair had to writhe on top of each other.

"That was 12 years ago," she recalls. "But it was a brilliant play."

Lesley adds, grinning; "But I'll tell you what's scary; it's writing a comedy play for Oran Mor and sitting in the theatre wondering if the audience will laugh. Now, that's really scary."

Lesley is also a writer, creator of Oran Mor successes such as Saint One.

"I'd always wanted to act," she says recalling stints in youth theatre and school drama.

"But I was always scared to admit it to myself. And I did Dramatic Studies at RSAMD to make sure I got an Honours degree.

"But then I was lucky to land work at the Traverse at the end of my course, and the acting run continued for six months. I thought 'My God, I'm an actress'."

Yet, acting is a fickle friend. Lesley hates the idea of not being busy, which is something of an occupational hazard.

"And I've always been aware of the lack of financial security. So I began writing."

Lesley landed work with the Press and Journal in Aberdeen, writing a weekly column about her adventures in showbiz, her take on the world.

"It helped me find my own voice," she says, smiling. "Since then I've done a literary internship with the National Theatre of Scotland, and I'm now their senior reader.

"From this, I got the confidence to write my own plays."

Lesley has also been involved in taking the Play Pie and A Pint concept to Aberdeen Theatre, The Lemon Tree. And she is currently working with new writers in the North East.

"Writing allows you to explore ideas, to consider how people will react in certain circumstances.

"And acting does the same. It's about improving your performance all the time, expanding your range."

She adds, grinning; "I seem to have moved on from playing coming-of-age teuchter farm girls."

Lesley is delighted to be back in the Byres Road theatre.

"Oran Mor have been brilliant at showing faith in me, as an actor and a writer. And I'm set to write another play for the theatre."

Acting in demanding roles, writing plays starring the likes of Elaine C Smith . . . life couldn't get any better?

"I could do with being a bit richer," she adds, grinning.

n Love With A Capital 'L', Oran Mor, until Saturday.

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