Nightmare Neighbours

LIFE is great, you've just bought a lovely three-piece suite with perfectly matching scatter cushions that you can't wait to show off.

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n Jacqueline Hannan and Yvonne Collins are appearing at Cottiers Theatre. Picture: Colin Templeton
n Jacqueline Hannan and Yvonne Collins are appearing at Cottiers Theatre. Picture: Colin Templeton

But then the neighbour comes in, the one that pretends to be your best pal, but as soon as she sees the new sofa says she saw the same one, only cheaper, and didn't fancy it – because it would clash with her curtains and her man's complexion.

Jealousy, bitterness, envy – and revenge – that's the familiar themes which run through A Right Guid Gab, the new comedy play – described as 'a Fife version of The Steamie' – set to premiere at Glasgow's Cottiers Theatre.

Written by Michael Kelly (not the former Lord Provost) the play, set in Fife in 1974, reveals the story of Ella Baxter and hubby, Sawndy who are 'fair looking forward to a wedding trip to the Highlands'.

And everything is looking absolutely braw in their world until the village's top gossip, Babs White, bursts in Ella's door with some big news.

What's the news that destroys Ella's equilibrium? That would spoil the plot, but it's fair to say that during the play Babs does her very best to burst her neighbour's balloon.

"I'm a sort of Stepford Wife character in the play," says a smiling Yvonne Collins, who stars as Ella.

"Ella's very materialistic, loves her house and can afford nice things in life because her husband has a good job and earns a good wage. In short, Ella and Sawndy have the best of gear."

But then the neighbour from next door arrives. Or rather the neighbour from Hell.

Yvonne said: "Ella is getting organised for her holiday, but Babs from next door (played by Jacqueline Hannan) arrives and wants to use the phone.

"The pair aren't friends, but Babs draws Ella in with a bit of gossip. Like most women she can't resist a bit."

But then it all goes dark as Babs begins to use psychological warfare.

She said: "Her man has never worked a day in his life and Babs spends her days at the bingo, but she needs to have a go at Ella, so she picks up on the fact that Sawndy doesn't let Ella go to bingo. And then Babs asks to use the phone – but can't because Sawndy has put a lock on it.

"Babs realises from the phone lock that Sawndy is a controller, and she begins to highlight that.

"Meantime, Ella is very self-conscious and worried about how she comes across."

The comedy comes from the recall of 70s life, a time when some Scots were getting their first chance to enjoy material benefits in life.

And from the dramatic tension between the women.

Yvonne, who lives in Maryhill but grew up in Stranraer, says she's delighted at the chance to appear on the professional stage for the first time.

She says: "I was always a massive attention seeker. Mum got me into the local drama club and I found I got more and more hungry for it.

"I just love acting. It's what I always wanted to do."

On leaving school, Yvonne worked for Stena Line as a cabin assistant but couldn't resist the acting call. She left for Glasgow to study Acting and Performance at Stow College and followed this up with an acting course at Ayr's University of the West of Scotland before going on to study at Stirling University and gaining a teaching qualification.

"I've made the right move in life," she says.

"But to be honest I was overwhelmed by the big city when I came to Glasgow.

"Attitudes were so different. In Stranraer, for example, you can't get in and out of Tesco in less than two hours because you meet so many people.

"And I had a fear of being on my own. But in Glasgow I did discover that people would be helpful, and they would acknowledge you in some way, which I'd imagine is not like London at all."

This may be Yvonne's first professional role, but she can call upon life experience to play the part of Ella.

"We've all known the nosey neighbours who come into your house and if they've got nothing to say they make up stories," she says, smiling.

"But of course when they go you talk about them. And then you feel two-faced."

The new play is produced and directed by writer Des Dillon, the talent behind hits such as I'm No' A Billy – He's A Tim.

"Des is a great director," says Yvonne smiling.

"He really knows how to create comedy. But he's also very direct. He lets you know when you're rubbish."

She adds, grinning: "But he also praises when you get it right."

n A Right Guid Gab, Cottiers Theatre, January 23-February 8.

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