Brian Beacom

CRAIG McLean offers an explanation, a highly unusual one, as to why he made the move into acting.

In the months before attending drama college, McLean, who is making his professional debut on stage this week at Glasgow’s Oran Mor in A Respectable Woman Takes To Vulgarity, was suffering. Literally.

“I broke my nose, both my hands and several ribs - more than once,” says the intensely upbeat 23 year-old from Holytown near Motherwell.

“I had major shoulder injuries, torn hamstrings, the lot.” He adds, grinning; “I had a revolving door experience with my local hospital. I knew I didn’t want to keep that going.”

McLean explains that before walking towards the footlights, McLean had spent much of his teen life under floodlights, as a professional youth footballer with Airdrie.

“At 16 I figured I’d be a footballer for the rest of my life. But in the next couple of years I became more unfit and wasn’t pushing myself as much. It just wasn’t fun anymore.

“Then when I was 18 I came back from training one night having been told my expected contract for the next two years wouldn’t be renewed.”

Did he question his ability? “No, I don’t think I had the determination,” he admits. “I think there were other players out there who wanted it more than me.”

Did he suffer the almost compulsory abuse/blame that comes with the role of goal custodian?

“That was certainly the case,” he says, smiling, although you know he wasn’t laughing at the time.

“I’ve had a few howlers in my day. There was one time when I was playing against Dunfermline and stood too far off my goal line and the boy in midfield noticed this and the fact I’m not too tall (he’s five nine) and I was chipped from the centre circle.

“It flew over the top of me and all I could do was watch it go in.”

He adds; “But it wasn’t the howlers that stopped me trying hard. My heart just wasn’t in it enough.”

Here’s an amateur psychologist’s thought, Craig: perhaps the real reason you stopped investing in his football career was your mind had already been corrupted by acting possibility?

“I totally agree,” he says with a knowing smiling.

“I wasn’t that passionate about football, about anything really. Don’t get me wrong, I got to go to tournaments in the likes of Malta. I had the dream of a life in football. But I think I got into football because that’s what everyone around me did.”

Aged 18, his head reminded him how much he’d loved impersonating people at school.

“I came to realise I’d just have to have a go at acting so I joined the drama class in Sixth Year and began reading speeches I could use for audition pieces.”

McLean didn’t fully realise how much acting had meant to him until he attended drama college. “I found myself working like I’d never worked before. Now, I love what I do.”

The excitement he is feeling is palpable. His enthusiasm to get going is such he almost has to be tied down.

McLean still can’t quite believe he’s actually appearing alongside Anne Kidd in Douglas Maxwell’s play which features a relationship between a newly-widowed woman and her late husband’s toilet-mouthed young employee, Jim.

“Anne’s experience can has been great,” he enthuses.

The young actor admits he’s not too separated from the stage character. “Jim comes from a working class background like me. (McLean’s dad is a chef and his mum a dog-walker and groomer). I think I can bring a reality to that; I feel I know how he thinks.

“He’s a bit unlucky, but not a bad guy. He’s also cleverer than other people think he is. And there’s a naivety about him.” McLean smiles; “But I think I can be pretty naïve at times too.”

McLean’s father isn’t around either. “I can relate to that experience. My parents split a few years ago and my dad now lives in Newport.”

The actor, you know will give his all to the week ahead and then the stint the following week at the Lemon Tree in Aberdeen. He’s in the world he wants to be part of.

“That is so true,” he says with a smile of delight.

And at least the worst injury he’s likely to endure is a dry throat, a fractured self-esteem, or a slightly gashed ego?

“That’s so true,” he says, grinning.

A Respectable Woman Takes To Vulgarity, Oran Mor, until Saturday.