Opting for life on the dark side in panto this year, Ross Allan has earned some rave reviews as baddie’s sidekick Gob.
Eden Court’s Sleeping Beauty is Ross’s fourth panto and sixth Christmas show.
Ross said: “The first panto I did was at the Macrobert Theatre in Stirling, though before that I had done a Christmas show there and it just snowballed.
“I usually end up playing the ‘funny wee man’ characters.
“This is the first time I’ve technically played a baddie – but it’s just a darker costume!”
Talking about his best-ever Christmas recently, Ross revealed it had involved watching his mum singing Copacabana in karaoke with a pineapple on her head.
So does the performing gene run in the family?
“No! I mentioned that image of my mum at Christmas because it was so unlike her.
“No-one else in my family has been involved in the arts – my mum’s in nursing and my dad’s a sales manager in a plumbing company, so I don’t know where it came from – though my dad is always really funny and my dad’s dad is too.”
Ross hasn’t great memories of his first panto.
“I think I was petrified for the whole thing. When the schools come in for the afternoon shows now, you usually spot one little kid with their hands over their ears. That was me!”
Ross graduated 10 years ago from Queen Margaret’s University – a BA in acting with distinction.
He modestly says he isn’t sure why he got distinction, then joked: “I didn’t miss many days off – just one the whole time I was at drama school, so that might have been it!”
In the time since Ross graduated he’s done a lot of theatre, has toured extensively and appeared with companies including the National Theatre of Scotland.
But he clearly remembers his first-ever job after graduating.
“It was a show by Gridiron Theatre Company called Fierce: An Urban Myth and I had to learn to breakdance and rap.
“The show went on tour, had a successful run at the Fringe and won a Fringe award.
“It’s not every day you get asked to learn to breakdance for a show – but I haven’t used it at all since.
“It does come in handy for pantos having done a first job that involved dancing – panto usually has some form of dance to learn.”
He confirmed that he wasn’t refreshing his breakdancing skills for Sleeping Beauty.
Ross laughed: “No, I tend to keep the breakdancing quiet.”
Or he did...
But as an actor, Ross has learned to face the fear that is a constant in the job – not being right for a role.
“Auditioning is just part of the job and you have to go and be seen no matter how long you’re in the business,” he said.
“You just learn you have to be yourself and if that is not what one particular person wants, then there isn’t anything you can do. You move onto the next audition.
“When you’ve just recently graduated, you can feel ‘I can’t do this any more, I’m a terrible actor’ if you don’t get a role.
“But you learn it just means they have someone they prefer – you just have to keep believing in yourself. And I believe if you really want to do the job, you make your own luck. You just have to be realistic about it.”
It worked for Ross when as a young actor he got a role on TV classic, Taggart.
“It was my first TV job – and I played the killer!
“You expect to get to be the body.
“The one I was originally offered got cut out of the episode, so I went in for the first meeting not knowing who I would be playing.
“I remember the director saying to me ‘Well you’ll be happy with your part’.
“I killed about five people in an episode, but I’ve never played a killer since!”
Once you are immortalised on TV, you’re there forever, as Ross – also known as Nurse Hendry in CBeebies series Me Too! – knows.
“It was done six or seven years now, but being kids’ telly, it’s always on.
“There is always a new audience every couple of years and I do get lots of theatre friends and pals from school who are parents now complaining they get to see my face at six in the morning.
“But I had to grow my hair for that role, so whenever someone sees it and mentions it, it’s usually ‘Your hair looks really weird in that!’.”
Ross likes being involved with new writing at an early stage and has worked with young playwrights doing performed readings to help them try out their material. He has also worked with the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh doing the same thing with an education project called Class Act for work by schoolchildren.
“I’m quite a fan of contemporary theatre and it’s always great to be involved in something new,” said Ross.
As Gob, he doesn’t have to be as fast on his feet as fellow actor Greg Powrie who plays panto dame Nanny Knot.
“My costume’s an all-in-one, so I just zip in and I’m good to go.
“But I walk past the dame backstage a lot and he is always getting changed into something else, so it seems hard work for him backstage too!”
Ross appears in Sleeping Beauty which is at Eden Court until the final show on Sunday, January 5 at 5pm