It's Pinnies From Heaven For Lorraine
Evening Times 16th September 2011
The glamour of performing with Deacon Blue is tucked away in the trunk that is singer Lorraine McIntosh's memory. The glitter and pomp that comes with a pop career has evaporated like dry ice.
Lorraine's world right now is one of a face scraped free of make-up, it's about hairnets and grubby aprons, it's a world of abject 30s poverty and a time when families where held together by dirt and hope.
Why? The Glasgow-born performer who landed her first acting role in the Ken Loach film, My Name is Joe, is now starring in Men Should Weep, Ena Lamont Stewart's 1948 tenement play that is being revived at the Citizens Theatre.And the performer admits that, without doubt, the role of Maggie Morrison is the biggest acting challenge of her career.
"She's an incredible woman," says Lorraine of the central character. "She's the mother of six kids and the family live in appalling conditions. "She really is trying to drag her family through life. But she doesn't just have to deal with the grinding poverty; there are the problems with her family to contend with. "It's a brilliant play," says Lorraine of the production which also stars Michael Nardone and Julie Wilson Nimmo. "And it's shocking. It's a Scotland we don't hear too much about these days. "And it's really hard hitting, with a Ken Loach-like take on real life, and it certainly doesn't play to expectations."
Lorraine acknowledges she has to check her vanity in at the stage door each night. "I do," she says, smiling. "But that's a small price to play when you get to appear in such a great play." The 47-year-old accepts there's a huge responsibility that comes with playing the anchor role of Maggie, given not only the play revolves around her but that actresses such as Sharon Small have played the part so convincingly in the past. She said: "There is a huge weight on me. It's a hugely emotional performance, but it's also so rewarding because of that. "And I try not to think too much about it. I try to concentrate on the play, getting the character right; this tough but concerned woman."
Clearly a play about a family's battle to simply get by resonates with Lorraine. Born in the East End of Glasgow, the family moved to Kilmarnock when her father landed work at the local colliery. Her mum Sarah died, aged 46, from leukaemia and the 11-year-old schoolgirl kept house and home together. Times were incredibly tough, and they didn't improve much when at the age of 17 Lorraine left for Glasgow, slept on the floor of her brother's flat and studied for her Highers, eventually training for a BEd.
"This play has huge resonance for me," she says of the National Theatre of Scotland production. "I know what it's like growing up with no spare money, about the sense of getting by. "I left home in 1982, at a time when the mines were closing and people were losing their jobs. It was a terrible time. "Now, during rehearsals for this play we've been going for lunch in the Gorbals and you can see some people are still living in a desperate situation." She adds, ruefully: "When I was a kid, we were brought up to believe that life would be easier for the next generation. Now, you wonder, and worry about how the next generation will progress."
Lorraine's world these days is privileged, and she lives a nice life in a nice part of the South Side of Glasgow with her three kids and musician partner Ricky Ross. She's come a long way since the days she busked in Argyle Street before joining Deacon Blue. Global success followed. And of course, she's enjoyed a steady flow of acting work, in theatre and in television with her stint in BBC soap River City. But the huge personal success doesn't mean the blinds are pulled down to the reality around her.
"I'm going to bring the family along to see the play," she says. "I think it should be compulsory that young people get the chance to see this, to realise the lives people lived – and are still living. I know that teenagers in Glasgow have studied the play for Higher drama, but the story and the tragedy is not that interesting to them. "But perhaps if they see it performed, they may realise it's about harsh reality, not just words on the page."
Next year, Lorraine will rejoin Deacon Blue, and the sparkly jackets will again be on show.
There are plans to record a new album and a tour is likely to follow. "It's been difficult this year, trying to juggle the demands of acting and music," she says with a wry grin. "And Ricky jokes he's looking forward to seeing me in December. "But although this play is hugely demanding the way I look at it is I'm 47, I started late in acting and I may never get a chance to play a character like this again.
"How can you not love every moment of it?"
l Men Should Weep, the Citizens' Theatre, until October 8.