WHAT’S the chances of someone walking up to the Conservatoire these days and saying “I want to be an actor. I’ve never been on stage in my life, although I did racetrack commentaries for a while and I once had a job in a tyre factory.”

There’s about as much chance of entry success as Michael Gove has of being invited round to the Johnson’s this week for a glass of claret.

Yet, forty years ago, that’s exactly what Lawrie Ventry did, at the doors of the RSAMD. And he went on to become a theatre success story, appearing in a range of plays and theatre companies, from Perth Rep, to TAG.

This week Ventry is returning to the Oran Mor stage (his fourth appearance), in Peter McDougall’s new play Last Ferry To Dunoon at Glasgow’s Oran Mor.

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But first he rewinds on his entry into the world of acting. “All I knew about acting was watching films featuring the likes of Marlon Brando and Rod Steiger,” he says, smiling. “But I had this idea I’d like to act. And I began reading plays. I was daring and bold enough back then.”

All Ventry, now 65, had to offer the RSAMD was the confidence that comes with having lived a little. And a connection with horse racing.

On leaving school, Ventry worked in accountancy for the likes of Chrysler. But after a couple of years he dropped out and took off to London, living in Brixton. “This was nothing like Cowcaddens,” he says with some understatement. “Then I came back to Glasgow and landed work with Extel, which broadcast to the nation’s bookies.”

Ventry’s grandfather had been Glasgow’s top bookmaker, (operating without a license.) His father became a bookmaker, operating from a little shop through a pen, which had been an air raid shelter.

But could he convince the RSAMD to take him on? There were 16 places available, and 800 applicants. “I did the first audition and learned if you got through to the second you’re name would go on a list that afternoon.

Ventry walked the streets until it was time to go back and check if he’d made the cut. “I got back to the RSAMD and looked up at the list and my name wasn’t on it. I thought ‘Oh, well. They must be looking for the next Laurence Olivier, not a Laurie Ventry.

“So I left, went home to my bedsit and soon a telegram arrived, from Edward Argent, (director of drama) at the academy. ‘Why didn’t you appear for the improvisation audition?’ I called back and he explained the list with my name had gone up late. As a result, I was offered a place.”

He adds, smiling; “Who knows, if I’d done the improv part I may have been rubbish.”

Unlikely. Ventry was soon in demand. “For the first five years I’d get English roles,” he says of the likes of Iago and Claudius, and Truscott in Loot. He also starred in Jekyll and Hyde, (“Without make-up, using only physical changes.”)

This week however he’s most certainly a Glaswegian. Last Ferry to Dunoon features three characters, Jonnaboy, Aiden (Iain Robertson) and their sister Karen (Linda McLaughlin) who turn up at Dunoon pier in the middle of an almighty storm and wait in a rain-lashed shelter for a ferry to arrive from Gourock.

“That’s how the play starts,” says Ventry. “Then we realise all is not as it seems. But it’s a play about family history. It’s about seething resentment. It’s about grudges. And there is a supernatural element to the play. Peter McDougall (the writing legend who created the likes of BBC film Just Another Saturday) has dropped in Greek mythology references and it all makes sense.”

There is a lot of nostalgia in the play, echoes of the ‘Doon the Watter’ great escapes which Glasgow enjoyed every year to the West coast.

“There is, and it reminded me of our family trips to Rothesay, which we had in the years when my father was a bookie and making money. But he lost the business, thanks to drinking, and the arrival of the big bookie chains came in such as Ladbrokes and Hill.

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“Meantime, my mother worked went out to be a school cleaner and then became a dinner lady. Life was tough. Dinner sometimes was piece with cheap brown sauce.”

But the gut instinct, fed by a diet of Brando films, has paid off. “I’ve been lucky,” says Ventry. “I’ve been in some great plays. And this one is terrific.”

Last Ferry To Dunoon, Oran Mor, until Saturday.