WHEN Anya Scott-Rodgers made her stage debut at the age of six, no-one could have known that it was a hint of her future career.
It was, she reckons, her first ever experience of live theatre and, like so many young Scots, it came courtesy of family favourites the Singing Kettle.
"I lived in Lanark, which is lovely, but not as accessible theatre-wise as Edinburgh or Glasgow and for something of that magnitude and popularity to come to Lanark was a huge thing," she said.
"It was the part of the show where we get the children up on stage to sing. I put my hand up, jumped up and down and shouted ‘me!’, which is what we still get people to do. It’s something that people always remember and talk about to this day. It’s almost like you are part of this wee secret society that managed to get up on stage."
20 years later, it is Scott-Rodgers who is inviting children up onstage as the newest recruit to the Singing Kettle family and she acknowledges that early stage experience might just have planted the seeds of a future showbusiness career.
"If you asked my mum she would always say I was a little drama queen and having three brothers as well, I had to be quite loud to be heard," she said.
As a child Scott-Rodgers began taking as many music and acting lessons as she could, eventually going on to study English literature and theatre studies at university, followed by a performance based HND at college in Glasgow. A year as a stage manager in Paisley led on to a job with an educational theatre company, which took her around Scotland.
So when her fiancé told her that Singing Kettle founders Cilla Fisher and Artie Trezise were giving up performing and looking for a replacement, she could not believe it.
"I thought: that can’t be right — they are the Singing Kettle," she said.
However, once she knew it was not a hoax, she put in her application and eventually beat off competition from the hundreds of other hopefuls to earn her place on stage with Singing Kettle regulars Gary Coupland and Kevin Macleod.
"You very rarely get opportunities in this industry to go into something so beloved by people, so it was a no-brainer," Scott-Rodgers added.
"People always ask me how long I’ll be with the Singing Kettle and I always answer ‘as long as they’ll have me.’ I’d be mad to give this up. It’s like going to work with your best mates — me Gary and Kevin are way beyond colleagues now.
"Kevin’s favourite saying about the show is that you get paid to act like a seven year old, so why would you turn that down?"
Scott-Rodgers admitted with a laugh that she had some sympathy for Peter Capaldi. Like the new Doctor Who, she was ordered to keep her new role a secret. Although she found out in November that she had the job, she had to keep it quiet until the official news broke in the new year of Fisher and Trezise’s retirement from the stage, even though she was shadowing the production to learn the ropes.
"I had to keep on making excuses to my friends — ‘What are you doing this weekend?’ ‘I’m going to Fife.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Just because...’" she revealed.
"But it was absolutely invaluable because I got to see how everything worked from front of house to the audience, to backstage and me, Gary and Kevin would have a wee rehearsal between shows. It was a really nice introduction."
Not that the Singing Kettle’s founding couple have completely abandoned contact with the show. Fisher still writes songs for the show with Coupland, while Trezise is producer.
"They just let us get on with stuff, but they are both still around if you want a bit of advice, or just a wee blether. But it is ours now. I suppose we’ve been passed the kettle," Scott-Rodgers said.
Being part of the Singing Kettle allows her to show off some of her musical skills, though she leaves the piano playing to Coupland, but Scott-Rodgers admits that this is one production where the professional performers do not mind being upstaged.
"It’s all well and good that we go up there and perform, but the show is for the kids," she pointed out.
"You never know what they are going to say or what they will be dressed as — though we’re doing a jungle show, we’ve had a few Spider-mans as well.
"My favourite though was when we did our smaller scale show, Wild West Party. In one place we got these five kids up on stage and four of them were dressed as cowboys and one of them was dressed as an elephant. We asked why, and this poor wee thing said: ‘Mummy got the show wrong.’
"But those are the moments people will go away talking about. You live on the edge of your seat, but you just have to take it in your stride. I’d far rather have things like that happen than do the same show every night. I love being upstaged by the kids."
With the Singing Kettle’s Rumble In The Jungle tour coming to an end after this weekend’s Inverness shows, the little girl who appeared with the Singing Kettle all those years ago can hardly believe that she now gets to do this every day.
"I still don’t really register that it’s actually my job now, but I’m having an absolute ball," she said.
"We usually have a break in March and for the first time I was sitting there thinking ‘I really wish I was at work’. You are working so close to the bone and then you have these three weeks off and you really miss the boys. It’s not a chore going to work at all."
• The Singing Kettle’s Rumble In The Jungle is at the Empire Theatre, Eden Court, today at 2pm and on Saturday and Sunday at 12pm and 3pm.