Theatre - Leah Macrae on 51 Shades Of Maggie

CAN you imagine breaking the news to your parents that you're being paid to have your backside skelped and about to undergo two hours of sexual subservience – in front of 1600 people?

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n Leah Macrae as Easterhouse girl Maggie in the new comedy coming to the Pavilion
n Leah Macrae as Easterhouse girl Maggie in the new comedy coming to the Pavilion

No? Well, that was the task facing comedy actress Leah Macrae who is set to star in Fifty One Shades of Maggie at the Pavilion Theatre, Glasgow, a bracelets and bondage comedy take-off of EL James' bestselling book.

Leah, best known as the ditsy Julie in the Comedy Unit's Scottish Bafta-award-winning Gary: Tank Commander, now in it's third series, plays Maggie, an Easterhouse girl who attends her Back To Work meeting at the Social – and falls for the clerk asking her the personal questions.

"I wasn't really looking forward telling my parents about the role," says the 29-year-old of her revelation.

"I figured at first my dad would be most shocked by what I was about to get up to.

"But it was my mum who nearly died when I read to her the bit in the play about Maggie having sex up against the B&Q warehouse wall."

But Leah adds: "It's a fantastic part to play and the show has already enjoyed a sell-out run in Belfast.

"It's always been a dream of mine to appear in a one-woman show, even though it's very demanding because I have to voice a variety of characters.

"But I must admit I was a bit wary when offered the part because it is a wee bit fruity."

Maggie is bored with life in her council flat and getting drunk with her pal Big Sally Ann, and decides to take the plunge to enter the world of sexual submission.

"Well, she's nothing like me in real life," says Leah, pre-empting the question.

"I think the reality is that Maggie's a bit lost. She puts on this act of sexual bravado, but I think it's exactly that; an act.

"What she's really looking for is love. But the love of her life is anything but conventional."

Leah, who lives in the South Side of Glasgow and is happily married, says the comedy show works because it reflects how she felt when she read Fifty Shades of Grey.

"It made me laugh," she recalls. "Here was this 19-year-old woman who suddenly decided Christian Grey was the only man who could take her to heaven. As if anyone at 19 knows that much about what they want from a relationship."

The actress reveals this is her biggest theatre role to date.

"I don't get many chances to do theatre," she says. "I think that's because producers see me locked in a comedy box.

""Well, this is a comedy of course, but it's being played out in a massive theatre. And the part calls for me to do more than deliver the laughs.

"But there is some serious stuff going on in here as well and it's up to me to convince with this character."

Leah hopes pal Karen Dunbar will get the chance to catch the show.

"I learned so much from Karen while working on her TV show. And I do actually borrow a little bit from her for one of the character voices I do in the play.

"But I won't spoil it by revealing which one. I'll let the audience work it out."

Leah admits she used to impersonate her comedy hero.

She said: "When I was at school I used to take off her characters, the Science Teacher and Betty The Slapper.

"Then one day when I was working on her TV show Karen said to me 'Come on, then. I hear you do me really well Let's hear it'.

"Well, I was mortified. But I did the voice, with my nostrils flaring to great effect, and she laughed her head off.

""I was so relieved."

Leah's dream is to one day work with her idols Karen Dunbar and Elaine C Smith on stage.

"These are women I aspire to be," she says. "Their talent is incredible, and they're really nice, sensitive people as well. You couldn't have better role models."

There's a sensitivity about Leah which emerges in her work. And that will emerge, even when playing Maggie, who appears to have the skin of a rhinoceros wearing a suit of armour.

"I think Maggie's had her heart broken. And that explains why she behaves the way she does."

And has Leah, who works as a support worker in between acting stints, had her heart broken?

"Hasn't everybody?" she says, rhetorically. "I was 15 and at school at the time, and thought it was a love that would last for ever. Then you get dumped and your world collapses. But it's a life lesson: how someone can let you down."

She adds, grinning; "The trick is to get through it and come out smiling at the other end."

And does Maggie?

"Wait and see," she says. "But I can tell you it's a surprise ending."

n Fifty One Shades of Maggie, Pavilion Theatre, May 13-17

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