WHEN former River City star Deirdre Davis last played the Citizens Theatre, she was rushed on stage with a script in her hand to perform in front of a capacity audience.
This time around, she’s hoping for a more straightforward but no less memorable performance at the Glasgow venue which holds such a special place in her heart.
Deirdre, who played Eileen Donachie on the Scottish soap for 14 years, is starring in the powerful all-female ensemble, Bold Girls, at the Citz from this week.
She has a long history with the venue, having worked there when she was a drama student and soaking up as much knowledge as she could.
“I worked front of house at the Citizens when I was in my second and third year at the RSAMD (now the Royal Conservatoire),” explained Deirdre, taking a break from rehearsals.
“I was an usher and worked in the bar. I used to watch everything over and over. It was the best job.
“Years later, in 2001, my husband Greg (Powrie) was playing Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream here. I came to see it on opening night and it was amazing, I wished I was in it.
“Then the woman who was playing Titania became ill, so they called me and I was given a script and put on stage.
“I did it a couple of nights with the script in my hand, then the director said I was clutching it like a handbag and I had to get rid of it!
“So this is my second time performing at the Citizens but the first occasion I’ve had a rehearsal period. Hopefully I’m a little more prepared this time!”
Bold Girls, written by award-winning playwright Rona Munro, was first performed in 1991 and signalled her arrival as a major voice in Scottish theatre.
Set in West Belfast during The Troubles, it’s a story of love, friendship and betrayal among four women in a working-class community.
“I didn’t know the play at all,” admitted Deirdre, 53. “But when I read it I immediately loved it.
“Having a cast of four women talk about their lives is unusual. As an actress it doesn’t come along very often.
“Nora is my character and she’s the mum of one of the others, Cathy. She’s a middle-aged woman who has lived through The Troubles and the world they are in.
“The stories the women tell could be told in any patriarchal working-class community in Britain or any western country at that time, where the women’s only option was to stay at home while the men went out and did the honourable and dangerous stuff.
“These are women who define themselves by their relationships with their men, even though they all have their own stories.
“The backdrop of The Troubles is almost like another character and heightens all the aspects of what’s going on.” With gender politics very much back in the headlines, the revival of the show is timely.
“Is the play dated? Sadly not. It’s women just telling their stories, still fighting the fight, which is heightened right now. It’s simply serendipity that we’re doing it when all of this has started to come out,” explained Deirdre.
The mum-of-two and gran-of-three was one of the original cast members of River City, so it wasn’t an easy decision to walk away – especially when she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do next.
“I stepped away not because I hated it but because I wanted to try other things – I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to carry on acting. I got involved with a charity called Tearfund and went to Malawi with them, which was a very emotional experience. When I came back I travelled round Scotland giving talks about the issue of child marriage over there.
“I was also keen to spend more time with my family and being Nan will always be my favourite role.
“It had also been a long time since I worked in theatre. I only did two plays during my time on River City.”
She added: “I’m not saying I’ll never go back to River City – I would love to, but I’m really happy with what I’m doing now.
“I had no plan, no exit strategy, but I just thought ‘let’s just see what happens’.
“So far it’s worked out fine.”
Bold Girls, Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, Wednesday until Feb 10