She is best known by many as the much loved nosey neighbour Isa Drennan in the hit TV sitcom Still Game, and will also be remembered by younger views as middle-aged childminder Granny Murray in the children’s programme Me Too!
However, as Jane McCarry stars in The Wind in the Willows at Pitlochry Festival Theatre, she’s in no doubt that the stage has continued to capture her imagination during her 30-year career.
Jane laughs that it’s a few years since Still Game went off air, and it was “never really that many weeks of the year”.
However, she says it’s “bizarre” how many people have told her they watched it every day during lockdown – and she admits it’s a role she’s probably still most recognised for.
“It’s a strange thing – I haven’t really watched Still Game for years,” says Jane, who laughs that she felt like she was turning into Isa during lockdown.
“But I did watch bits of it just because it was always on.
“I’ve got so many fond memories of that job and I love the people in the job. I genuinely don’t mind if people know me for that because it was such a gift that I was part of it. But I do love doing new things!”
Glorious outdoor setting
Jane is taking a break from rehearsals for The Wind in the Willows when The Courier catches up with her – and she can’t quite believe how lucky she is to be performing in such a glorious socially-distanced outdoor setting as the banks of the River Tummel.
Adapted for the stage by Mark Powell, and co-directed by Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s artistic director, Elizabeth Newman, Jane plays the parts of Horse, Badger and Washer Woman and stars alongside Colin McCredie as Toad; Alicia McKenzie as Mole; Ali Watt as Ratty; Richard Colvin as Weasel; Connor Going as Otter and Kate Milner-Evans as Rabbit.
The only person she’s worked with before is Colin. They’ve done about five shows together.
However, after work dried up during lockdown, she’s absolutely delighted to be back laughing amongst actors again – and, despite knowing each other well, she reveals that she and Colin have to develop a particularly trusting relationship in this show.
“Badger is the straight one and that’s fine,” she says.
“But it’s great fun being Horse as well because I’ve got to pull a big carry-on thing with Colin McCredie on the back. That’s really good fun.
“The Washer Women is just outrageous – like a Glasgow rough washer woman. She’s got the only line in it that’s a wee bit rude – that’s my favourite!
“It’s great to play three completely different characters.”
A familiar story
Jane was already familiar with Kenneth Grahame’s enduring story of friendship, courage, consequence, and bravery as The Wind in the Willows was on TV when she was a child.
At drama school, she starred in a dramatization of it called Toad at Toad Hall. However, she does have one painful memory.
She says: “I remember I was a rabbit and had a pin left in my costume – that was the only thing I remember about it. Sitting on the pin in the court room scene and being desperate to scream but I couldn’t!”
Jane says she has always enjoyed the story.
However, the original music and detail of this adaptation is “just fantastic”.
“The good thing is the goodie is naughty,” she adds. “I think sometimes when I do panto when you’re the goodie – like Cinderella, you fall in love, it’s all sickly nice.
“But this is different because the hero is even naughtier than all the kids.
“So that makes it a great goodie to get behind because you love him but you know he’s in the wrong. I think that as well has made all the difference to the telling of the story.”
‘Like a force of nature’
Another aspect that’s made a difference, she says, is Pitlochry artistic director Elizabeth Newman.
While she’s never worked with her before, Jane describes Elizabeth as being “like a force of nature”.
“She’s like a force of nature – she’s got so much energy, drive and enthusiasm,” adds Jane.
“She has made a massive difference up here. Nothing stops her.
“She’s got a full season happening despite Covid-19.
“This feeds into the whole community here. Without the theatre Pitlochry would be a very different place, so what Elizabeth has done has just been incredible. It’s been so good. You feel so cared for and nurtured.
“One of the girls is doing a wee telly job today. Elizabeth says ‘absolutely, make time!’ It’s about looking after every individual person.”
*The Wind in the Willows runs at Pitlochry Festival Theatre until September 12