Not Playing for Laughs; Comic Star Joyce Falconer Gets Serious for Her New Play on the Reformation
Byline: PAUL ENGLISH
Joyce Falconer is on a mission. The Doric actress, best known for playing husky Roisin in River City, wants Scotland to face up to itself.
It's just one of the reasons that she's knocking her pan in touring with two stage shows the length and breadth of the country.
The other is that she gets to play her squeezebox on stage...
The Aberdonian is the star of the National Theatre of Scotland's tour, which sees her pop up in Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off, written by Liz Lochhead, and the darkly humorous kids' play My Teacher's A Troll by Dennis Kelly.
The extensive tour will see her appear in venues across the country from Dunoon to Nairn - but it's Glasgow and the west coast that she feels would benefit most from seeing her latest work.
Eating lunch in a Gorbals greasy spoon on a break from rehearsing at Glasgow's Citizen's Theatre, Joyce is contemplating the relevance of a play about the reformation in today's society.
She says: "I'm narrator in Mary Queen of Scots, and I also get the chance to play some of my instruments - my squeezebox and melodian - which is great, because I've always seen myself as an allround performer.
"But the play is a look back politically and socially, at what was going on in Scotland when Mary Queen of Scots was reigning, which was during the Reformation.
"At one point the play flashes to a scene in a school playground and suddenly it's all about how this religious divide is still ingrained in our society today, predominantly across the west coast of Scotland.
"It's much more relevant to here than anywhere else.
"Glasgow's been my second home for 20 years, and it really is the shame of our nation, the bigotry that still exists in this country. It's maybe not as bad as it used to be, but it's still very much there.
"When I came here from Aberdeen I saw and heard things in Glasgow that I was astounded by. Suddenly everyone wanted to apply a label to your head - 'what are ye, what school did you go tae?' "Where I came from in Aberdeen, you either believed in God or you didnae. I couldn't believe how ingrained it was in the culture.
"But of course the religious divide and bigotry in the west of Scotland really has very little to do with faith.
It comes down to ignorance, that's what you find in the most bigoted folk you meet. It has nothing to do with Christian faith.
"The play deals with Elizabeth the first who had reformed, and got Mary to reform too.
"Britain, in those days, became very much a protestant country. There were scenes of hatred in Scotland at the time, and when you think that hundreds of years later there still are, it's almost unbelievable.
"When you look around you, especially when it comes to football and religion, you see people flying Union Jacks and Irish tricolours. Why? We're in Scotland here. Not England or Ireland."
Joyce laughingly agrees that Mary Queen of Scots is "not exactly a PR exercise for the west of Scotland," but stresses how important it is to address what former First Minister Jack McConnell famously dubbed "Scotland's secret shamee" in a wider context. …