Big Interview: Down The Clansman With Still Game

It’s time for last orders as the Still Game cast wave a big farewell to Craiglang.

Twenty years since their debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Jack and Victor have become household names. Set to retire the bonnets for good, Lorne Gillies caught up with Victor McDade, played by Greg Hemphill, to find out about series nine and their big Hydro Final Farewell.

On a small stage in Edinburgh,friends Greg Hemphill and Ford Kiernan discovered their ticket to laughs. Kitted out in knitted jumpers and bonnets, Jack and Victor came to life. The duo has taken their friendship and turned it into one of the most loved Scottish comedy skits in recent years.

BEST BUDS

“Of all the characters to write, Jack and Victor were the easiest,” enthuses Greg,who has been writing and acting since the early 1990’s.

“You just close your eyes and ten minutes later you had three pages of what we thought was hilarious and, hopefully, the audience would agree.

Their voices came very naturally to us. I remember Ford remarking one day that Jack and Victor could be funny about anything.” Funny is certainly a quality that shines through Jack and Victor, not to mention the situations they find themselves in. And they’ve been in some tricky situations.

For us watching at home,series nine will be on our screens in the coming months, but Greg and the rest of the cast waved goodbye to Craig lang back in September of this year.

Credit: BBC Studios Photographer: Alan Peebles

Greg explains: “It was quite emotional, but also a lot of relief. To know that the audience is going to get to see the final episode is exciting to me; we know that there is still the Hydro so it’s not the end of Jack and Victor, yet. It’s the end of the television story. 62 episodes – it’s a long time. With all the best shows it’s all in the ending.

“The audience loves the characters as much as we love them and you want to give a sense of finality to that, because you feel like they deserve it. As actors and writers, we are lucky to have a set of characters that audiences have responded to in a way that they have. It feels like an ending is important.”

After a triumphant run at the iconic Glasgow Hydro in 2014, selling out 21 dates and performing to a total of 210,000 enthusiastic fans, Still Game is once again preparing to go on the road.

TO THE STAGE

Glasgow is a notoriously rowdy and energetic crowd, but what is the difference between performing in a studio compared to going live?

“Things can change through the production, certain scenes can slow down or speed up and the audience will laugh at something you didn’t expect them to – it’s a bit more random,” laughs Greg.

“A TV episode can unfold gently and be funny, whereas a theatre show is like a party and you want to generate the electricity and energy.”

Greg adds that performing live is natural for the Still Game cast as that’s where it all began. Performing at the annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Greg and Ford were surprised at the hilarity and humour that came from the two pensioners.

But, let’s be serious, who doesn’t love spending time with their grandparents?

Even Greg agrees: “My grandfather used to say things to make my dad shocked, he would say things to outrage or embarrass him, and he would look at me and I would piss myself laughing. There was a family dynamic there where your father and mother are your guardians and keepers, but grandparents are always having fun with you and being mischievous… People see them as a child who is also in the body of a wrinkly old man or woman,” Greg chuckles.

And it is this love of grandparents that has driven the inspiration behind Still Game and the community of Craiglang.

COMMUNITY

“Everybody has a favourite,” emphasises Greg. “At some stages you love them all. I went through a phase recently of just loving Bobby because he takes so much abuse from the guys and gives it back. Winston, of course, and Tam’s tightfistedness makes me laugh endlessly and Navid is wise: he is like the oracle Jack and Victor go to for advice. Then Isa is the only regular recurring female character in it and her voice resonates even more because of that.”

The strength of partnership between the characters, and the adoration and love for the characters, is statement to the power behind Greg and Ford’s writing.

Credit: BBC Studios Photographer: Alan Peebles

MAKING WAVES

Having completed an MA Honours Degree in theatre, film and television at the University of Glasgow, Greg encourages fiercely that now is the time to follow your dream.

No matter if you want to be on the stage, you’re bursting with creative ideas to write a play, want to be the mastermind behind sound, direct, or have a passion for engineering and science: there are a multitude of courses on offer.

For creative graduates the fear of not getting recognised is a distant memory. Greg adds: “Even once you come out of college; content is king at the moment. There are so many channels bursting for original content. When I was growing up you had the BBC, Channel 4 and ITV. Now, you have Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, HBO; there are so many more choices all looking for content. For writers and performers there is more work than ever.

“Here’s a good bit of advice: don’t waste time at college doing a course that you’re not interested in,” Greg encourages passionately.

“You’ve got to follow your own path and follow your own instinct, that way you preserve your time, because time goes quickly.”

Wise words from the man behind your two favourite pensioners.

The last series of Still Game will air on 24 February 2019, ahead of The Final Farewell tour in October 2019. Grab your tickets over on Ticketmaster.

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