AS an Invernessian, actor Jimmy Chisholm is always happy when his professional life takes him back to his home town,
"I’m very proud of where I come from. I love going back there and I think Eden Court is one of the finest theatres in Britain. It’s a joy to be up there," he declared.
Recent visits have seen him play the title role in Eden Court’s own production of Para Handy, as well as much of the cast of the Humphrey Bogart classic in Casablanca: The Gin Joint Cut.
This time he only has one role to play, but one again is cast as the title character in Uncle Varick, former Nairn resident John Byrne’s Scottish remake of Chekov classic Uncle Vanya.
"He’s streamlined it and set up north of Inverness — that’s his version of the remotest part of Russia," Chisholm explained.
"He’s set it in the ’60s which makes it more attainable for everyone. Uncle Varick is quite bitter because he’s given up his life really to support his brother-in-law’s career and since Varick’s sister died, the brother-in-law has moved on and got a new wife, but is still taking all the money from the estate."
Although Chisholm has appeared in other Chekov plays, this is the first time he has appeared in a version of Uncle Vanya, but he admires the Russian playwright’s ability to find out what makes people tick.
"He explores in great depth how people can be disillusioned or in unrequited love affairs, but in quite a comedic way. There’s a lot of irony in it," he explained.
"It does translate to the Scots quite well. There’s that sort of Calvinistic doggedness that shines through, which is obviously what attracted John to the story.
"It’s also John’s writing. He’s just a cracker at coining a phrase. In the Chekov there are some long speeches and John has mirrored that with some great flows of logic which I find quite mesmerising to listen to. It’s different when you’re saying them, but it’s great when you get it right. I’ve always had a lot of joy working on John’s scripts. They are really fantastic pieces of writing."
Chisholm’s title character, first played by Brian Cox at the Lyceum in Edinburgh 10 years ago, heads up an impressive Scottish cast.
Varick’s brother-in-law, metropolitan art pundit Sandy, is played by John Stahl, the first time he and Chisholm have worked together since they appeared on STV’s own Highland soap, Take The High Road.
Other familiar faces include 7:84 and Wildcat Theatre Company regular Dave Anderson, Maureen Carr and Ashley Smith, while Chisholm, whose film credits include Braveheart and The Angel’s Share, could see his profile rise even further if the BBC decide recent Comedy Playhouse pilot Miller’s Mountain, with Chisholm as the head of a shambolic mountain rescue team, goes to a full series.
"Donald McLeary, who wrote it, wrote the part for me, which is again a great compliment. And I had such a ball doing it, so fingers crossed with that one," Chisholm said.
"Donnie’s still writing with his producers at the BBC and getting it the way they want it, but an awful lot of work goes into these things and at the end of the day they could either way."
Varick and Miller are both Highland characters, and Chisholm hopes to play his part in encouraging new theatre talent from the north. Schedule permitting, he will appear in a new play directed by fellow Highland thespian Jimmy Yuill aimed at encouraging new acting talent from the north, as well as make a return to the Play Pieces lunchtime theatre slot in Inverness.
Last May he appeared in Play Pieces production The Gospel Inquiry, written by and co-starring Moray resident Sandy Nelson, and the play will now be performed at a festival in Glasgow later this year.
"It’s fantastic to see Highland actors like Karen Gillan and Kevin McKidd doing so well because there weren’t really any when I was young," he said.
"Now people can see it’s a possibility.
"It was purely by fluke I became an actor. I helped them load the van and asked how you became an actor — go to drama school. I didn’t know there was such a place. I thought you had to be related to John Mills.
"It can be a hard life, but it’s also a wonderful life. I’m very lucky to have a job where I’m still dying to get into work in the morning."
• Uncle Varick, written by John Byrne and starring Jimmy Chisholm, Dave Anderson, John Stahl, Maureen Carr and Ashley Smith, is at the OneTouch Theatre, Eden Court, Inverness, on Monday and Tuesday at 8pm.