BETTER known — but not always recognisable — as Craiglang busybody Isa Drennan in BBC Scotland’s comedy hit Still Game, actress Jane McCarry gets a little more serious in drama The Last Yankee.
This is the second of two plays from Glasgow’s Rapture Theatre Company marking the centenary of the birth of playwright Arthur Miller.
Regarded as one of the leading figures of American theatre, Miller, who was also the third husband of screen star Marilyn Monroe, was the author of such classic plays as The Crucible and Death of A Salesman.
The Last Yankee, however, is a less well known piece from late in his almost 70 year writing career.
"It is about depression and it is very straight — I think when Miller wrote it he was thinking about his life and his time with Marilyn Monroe, and his son had Down’s Syndrome and he was in an institution." McCarry said.
"But it’s not complete darkness. There is hope and there is light and positivity."
McCarry’s role as a wealthy but depressed American housewife is quite a leap from her most familiar acting guise, but that is just what she likes about it.
"That’s what I love about Rapture Theatre," she said.
"This is the third time I’ve worked with them and every time it’s been something completely different or a part I wouldn’t normally be cast in."
Her fellow cast members include David Tarkenter as "The Last Yankee" himself, Leroy Hamilton, a descendant of one of America’s founding families who has turned his back on his heritage to live a modest life as a carpenter.
This decision has estranged him from his wife Patricia (Pauline Turner), who has been hospitalised with depression. McCarry plays a fellow patient, Karen, and the main cast is completed by River City actor Stewart Porter as Karen’s husband John.
"Patricia and her husband have lots of kids, no money and life is quite difficult, but she was brought up to feel that life would be great," McCarry said.
"My character has a beautiful house and everything she wants, but she is unhappy and lonely, and Patricia can’t understand it because Karen’s living the American Dream."
In preparing for the play, McCarry and her fellow cast members spoke to a therapist who worked in America in the 1990s, something she found both useful and fascinating.
"Playing someone like this allows you to investigate something you’ve not really looked at before and talking to the therapist meant we did do a lot of talking about it as well as rehearsing," she said.
She might be best known for her Still Game role, but McCarry is more likely to found on stage than in a television studio.
"Generally theatre is how you spend your time. It’s almost one of the joys not to be doing comedy because, although it’s great fun, it is good to challenge yourself and do something completely different," McCarry said.
However, it was Still Game which also provided McCarry with her biggest ever live audience when the stage version played to some 210,000 fans over its 21 night run at The Hydro in Glasgow last year.
Yet for McCarry, there is more pleasure to be found performing to a theatre like Eden Court’s One Touch than a stadium sized crowd.
"It was a phenomenal experience, but it’s really exciting when it’s a small group and people are in front of you," she said.
"It seems like it wouldn’t be exciting to be in a tiny venue with 50 people compared to a huge venue with 13,000 people, but you can’t see people’s faces when you are in a huge venue. There’s something really lovely about people being right there in front of you."
• Jane McCarry can be seen in Arthur Miller’s play The Last Yankee at the Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, on Monday and the OneTouch Theatre, Eden Court, at 8pm on Thursday 5th November. The performance will be followed by an after show discussion.