The actress on Pittodrie pies, talking Doric, River City… and all that jazz
Is this your first time working with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra?
It is the first time I’ve worked with the SNJO and, having enjoyed its top-class work for many years, I’m delighted to be making my debut with them in my home town.
I’ve previously compered classical music concerts with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra but this will be a jazzy experience with Tommy Smith at the helm and my narration playing alongside.
What’s the background to Peter And The Wolf and the SNJO’s adaptation of it?
It’s a fairytale originally designed to introduce children to all the instruments of the symphony orchestra by giving a character to each instrument. The difference here, of course, is the characters take the form of the instruments in a jazz orchestra.
It’s a lot of fun. It’s now been across the world – to the US and Japan, and this is its first performance with a Doric storyline.
What do you make of Peterhead writer Gordon Hay’s Doric translation of Prokofiev’s text?
Gordon’s translation is warm, funny and very immediate, which I think should enable a personal connection with the audience.
How does it feel to be following in the footsteps of Sharon Stone, Sting, David Bowie, Sophia Loren and Sir John Gielgud by narrating the story?
Many famous names have narrated Peter And The Wolf over the decades with their own version but I don’t feel overwhelmed. I’m confident my Doric storytelling will be a unique take on this old tale.
Is it important we use Doric, and Scots, as much as possible, and also in ways such as this?
Very much so. Our oral storytelling tradition is being eroded, mainly due to the solitary nature of technology, so using Scots alongside a live jazz orchestra is an exciting way of keeping it alive. The Scots tongue is so rich, expressive and onomatopoeic and it needs to be used to survive.
What are some of your favourite Doric words or sayings?
One of my favourite Doric phrases is “Geeza bosie” which is much mair snuggly than “Give me a cuddle”. My love of speaking in the Doric tongue was inspired by my Toonser Granny, who came from Old Aberdeen, and my Country Nana, who came from The Mearns. Both had some cracking turns of phrase and words of wisdom such as “Staun stracht or ye’ll git humphy-backit”.
It must be nice to perform in Aberdeen. Can you recall some of your favourite jobs in the city?
I loved drama at school in Torry Academy. Throughout my career I’ve written and performed continually in the North East. Some of my favourite roles include the Fairy Godmother in Her Majesty’s Theatre’s centenary panto a few years ago, Jean in Sunset Song and Maw Broon in The Broons.
Talking of previous jobs, do you have any good stories about selling pies at Pittodrie during Aberdeen FC’s golden era?
I earned pocket money selling pies at the stadium when Aberdeen were beating the likes of Bayern Munich on the way to winning the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1983. It was a high-risk job. On one occasion, I had a tray of Bovril thrown at me and I was also splattered many times by pie-stealing seagulls. Fergie and me left and it was doonhill fae there.
It’s been 18 months since you returned to River City as Roisin. How has it been, and how does it compare to the first time round?
It’s been fun after having been in the original cast 20-odd years ago. Stephen Purdon (Bob) and Sally Howitt (Scarlett) are the only characters who were there when I was involved previously. We have good laughs reminiscing. Soap is its own form of storytelling, and you never know how your character’s story will end.
Plans for the rest of the year?
I’m hoping to do some one-woman gigs, so watch this space.
The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra presents Peter And The Wolf, Queen’s Cross Church, Aberdeen, Saturday
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