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|A wee guy grows up and finds romance; Iain Robertson Interview [Jan 29, 2006]|
|Topic Started: May 25 2009, 11:06 AM (352 Views)|
|charhath||May 25 2009, 11:06 AM Post #1|
From The Sunday Times - January 29, 2006
Best known for Small Faces and Sea of Souls, Iain Robertson never expected to play the lead in Romeo and Juliet, he tells Avril Lennox....
It was a scene straight out of Rab C Nesbitt. Iain Robertson walks out of rehearsals at the Citizens’ theatre into Sharkeys bar in the Gorbals. The place is empty save for three young guys in shiny sportswear. “Hey! I’ve seen you on the telly!” they shout as Robertson walks past. “Small Faces! Can we get our picture taken with you?” They crowd round Robertson. One of them, they confide, has just got out of jail. “Attempted murder. Four years. We are all pure jakebaws, by the way.”
Robertson smiles, shakes hands, allows himself to be snapped on three separate mobile phones. Then, after ordering an Irn-Bru and starting on the first of many Marlboro Lights, he asks conspiratorially: “A jakebaw. What is that?” It turns out that a jakebaw is the kind of young man that Robertson spent his formative years playing: Lex in Small Faces, or the teenager in rehab in Rab C Nesbitt.
Now 24, he is starring at the Citz, playing Romeo in Romeo and Juliet and Leonardo in Blood Wedding on alternate nights. After five years in London he has moved back to Glasgow, although not to Govan, where he was born. Instead he lives in the west end, drinks white wine, does yoga, is performing Shakespeare and Lorca, and has lost touch with the slang of the streets where he grew up. Funny how things turn out.
Romeo is notoriously difficult to cast, requiring the youth to convince as a love-struck teenager and the acting gravitas to carry the play. Robertson is an inspired choice: he has a CV that encompasses award-winning movies and the National Theatre. He is even on the telly, starring in BBC Scotland’s Saturday night drama series, Sea of Souls.
“They could have got a young pretty boy just out of drama college,” he says, knowing very well that the Citz would get Roy “Chubby” Brown before they did any such thing. “But instead they said, let’s see how Iain Robertson would approach it.”
It turns out that Iain Robertson has very strong ideas about how to approach it. “I think people mix Romeo up with Casanova,” he says firmly. “He’s not a philanderer, he doesn’t want to experience someone and have a bit of fun, he wants to be in love, settle down, have kids and feel it for ever.”
This is not the conventional take on the part. “I always see him played as flouncy and depressing, and that really turns me off. I don’t think he’s a drip. He kills two people in the play, risks death to get to Juliet’s balcony. Romeo should be a strong character. You’d have to be, to go behind your parents’ back and get married.”
Robertson may be recasting Romeo as a one-woman alpha male, but it is a romantic lead. Having got through 17 films and television series and never been kissed, this year sees him being seduced by two different women on stage and snogging for Scotland on Sea of Souls. “I never thought I’d get parts like that,” he says. “I was always the clown, especially in Shakespeare. I played parts that only get mentioned in reviews if you’re doing something wrong.” Has the child star grown up at last? It would appear he has.
“I was always the wee guy,” he says. “But then I got talking to one of the actresses in Sea of Souls about ZX Spectrums. She didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. There I was, sitting in a make-up truck, thinking: ‘I’ve got grey hairs and there’s an actress who doesn’t know what a ZX Spectrum is. I’m old. It’s not fair.’”
His self-assurance, however, shines through the gloom of the bar. He began acting at the age of 11 and moved to London two years later with a scholarship from the Sylvia Young drama school. This early start meant that Robertson graduated from college, and got his PhD from the school of hard knocks, before his contemporaries had even secured a role as a drugs ned on Taggart. His timing has always been impeccable.
“When I started out, being Scottish was a very good thing,” he recalls in an accent that still nods to Govan. “Small Faces and Trainspotting kicked off and, in the space of a year, it went from being a disadvantage to being very trendy to be Scottish and working class. Being down in London at that age, with the kudos of Small Faces behind me, I couldn’t have asked to be anything else.”
Not that Robertson parades his working-class roots like a badge. “It can be patronising,” he says. “I find Ken Loach films slightly patronising to people from that background. I’d love to go in for an audition with Loach with a suit on. I saw Sweet Sixteen in Sheffield and hated the subtitles. We didn’t have subtitles in Small Faces and that was sold to every country in the world.
“I came out of the cinema feeling a bit angry. Then I sat in my dressing room, getting ready to go on stage with Derek Jacobi, and I thought: ‘Thank God I’m here doing all this.’
“There were seven of us in a two-bedroom tenement, but it wasn’t hard, we didn’t know anything different and life is very different now for all of us. My little brother and sister are at university, we’re all getting on fine. The thing people miss when they make movies about the working class is the one thing we have in abundance: hope. We can fight our own battles if we have to. I don’t need middle-class people championing the working class for me.”
That is an understatement, although Robertson, who requests salad with his toastie, freely admits to spending his day off in a flotation tank and describes himself as “a bit of a metrosexual”, is nobody’s idea of an oppressed minority. He is busy at the Citz until March and then hopes to start on another series of Sea of Souls. Then there is his appearance in Basic Instinct 2.
“I’ve been reading recently that I’ve acted alongside Sharon Stone,” he says in the mock-luvvie accent he uses to soften the impact of anything that might sound too precious. “Well, I have been in the same base as her. I’ve seen her floating about.”
But his Scottish connections were there to help him out again. “My part started off as a real cough and a spit,” he explains. “But (the Scottish director) Michael Caton-Jones was so chuffed that he’d got the wee guy from Small Faces that he got another scene written for me. I suppose it became a gargle, a cough and a spit.”
It is clear that Shakespeare, lettuce and Sharon Stone have not gone to Robertson’s head. “There isn’t a toffee-nosed celebrity culture in Scotland. In fact, those that have the ‘I’m better than you’ attitude don’t last very long. If I’d snubbed those guys when I came into the bar earlier, they’d have told me what they thought of me. And I think they’d have every right to do so.”
Ever the optimist, Robertson hopes that the next time he sees them they will be sitting in red velvet seats, studying their programmes. “That’s the nice thing about wee Lex from Small Faces playing Romeo,” he says in the luvvie voice. “You get the jakebaws in the audience.”
Edited by charhath, May 25 2009, 11:07 AM.
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|Callum||May 25 2009, 04:34 PM Post #2|
Haha Funny guy, seems very nice indeed.
|Mélanie||May 25 2009, 05:25 PM Post #3|
|He does, which makes me really warm to him!|
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and the future less resolved than it will be”
|CraigFan||May 26 2009, 10:01 PM Post #4|
Adorkable Craig <3
I want to chatter to him like this, he sounds so nice and down to earth and interesting. *happy sigh*
Look reality in the face and lick it!
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