Brian Beacom

MAMMA mia! Why would a successful Scots actress with a great reputation for drama give it all up for a life of gold-sprayed boots, silky jump suits and duck-egg eye-shadow?

Wendy Seager smiles as she admits she walked away to join an Abba tribute, touring the continent.

But why the desperate wish to play Agnetha?

“In the late Nineties I had been playing a lot of characters who did a lot of crying,” she says, smiling.

“Then one day a friend who organised an Abba tribute show in Spain asked me to join them. And I did. And I had a fabulous time.”

Was there a worry it would kill her acting career?

“Oh, yes. It was suggested I’d be throwing my career down the stank.”

But the reality was six years later having met her Waterloo, and innumerable Dancing Queens, soprano Seager hadn’t stanked her career at all.

“In fact the opposite was the case. When I came back, casting agents looked me differently. I began to get musical theatre and comedy. And the Abba stint helped me rebuild my career.”

Edinburgh-born Seager, who starred last year in musical comedy Bingo!, is back in dramatic mode this week, starring in a new monologue, Coming Clean: Barbara.

On the face of it, Barbara has pretty much the perfect life. She’s nurtured the careers of her police Superintendent husband Andy, and doctor son Gavin.

She shops in John Lewis, has a lovely home and does enough church-based volunteering to keep her social conscience clear.

But then one day, her heavenly existence turns into Hell.

“Barbara discovers her husband has been abusing young girls,” says Seager.

“Then she is tormented by how and why she got to this point - but didn’t know the reality in her life.”

It’s a fascination subject matter. Has the husband been employing psychological tactics in order to keep his wife from opening doors?

Has she been all too absorbed by her material life?

“Over a period of time, she discovers her journey runs alongside that of the celebrity women who’ve found out their partners are abusers.

“Barbara then has to strip herself down and rebuild her entire life because what she thought herself to be isn’t quite the case. She has to find a new confidence.”

Seager adds; “It’s all too common for women in these circumstances to know, or suspect, but not to speak up. And you can understand it. How can you stand up and say the husband I’ve loved for 30-odd years is a paedophile?

“You know the consequences of getting it wrong. Lives will be destroyed.”

The play, by Alma Cullen (four previous Oran Mors and a TV writer with credits such as Morse) also asks how far people will go to hold onto a relationship.

What Seager likes about her character is she’s not particularly likeable.

It would have been all too easy for Cullen to create a Barbara that’s sweet and innocent.

“There is a great honesty in this play. At first the audience won’t like her – for example, she talks about single mums who aren’t really suitable for a Church committees.

“But then we find out what her life used to be like, the life she has now, and how she finds herself becoming the new Barbara, on a new journey.”

She adds, smiling; “All in the space of 50 minutes.”

A monologue, of course, is the theatrical equivalent of a bungee jump.

“Yes, well, thanks for reminding me of that,” she says, laughing.

“Well, it’s not called seat-of-the-pants Monday for nothing. But I really am looking forward to it.”

Seager was part of Edinburgh Youth Theatre alongside rock star Shirley Manson but didn’t go direct to drama college from school.

“It was that working class thing of having to get a job. But I don’t regret my time working for the DHSS at all. I met some incredible characters, and some great ‘actors’, which all feeds into experience.”

But what of Abba time? When she hears an Abba song on the radio does it throw up wonderful memories?

“Yes, and I still find myself singing the harmony,” she says, grinning. “It’s a time in my life I look back on with real fondness.”

The actress adds; “And I’ve kept all the costume because I’m so glad I joined the troupe. Life is too short not to follow your instincts.”

Seager’s inner Agnetha won’t be resurfacing at Oran Mor this week.

“But I get to play someone on a real journey,” she says, smiling. “And isn’t that great.”

Coming Clean: Barbara, Oran Mor, Glasgow, until Saturday.