DAVID Neilson is delightful to meet, if only to disprove the theory that soap actors simply play a heightened version of themselves.

The Midlands-born actor doesn’t even look like his Coronation Street creation Roy Cropper; the light beard, trendy glasses and casual outfit conspiring to suggest he’s closer to modern fashion than Roy’s grandad zip jerkin would ever hint at.

There’s certainly no forearm dent, indicating that unlike Roy, he has never had a shopping bag surgically attached.

And while he’s at least as erudite as the on-screen café owner, David Neilson laughs easier than a three year-old being tickled with a feather.

Today David is in Glasgow and chatting about the play which has coaxed him to take a break from Corrie after eight years.

He is appearing in Samuel Beckett’s Endgame at the Citizens’, starring alongside fellow Coronation Street star Chris Gascoyne (Peter Barlow).

It’s very much a labour of love for both of them.

“At the beginning of your career you may do work you don’t love for the money,” says the 66 year-old , grinning. “But not now.”

Endgame is set in a place is somewhere between life and death, the writer preparing the audience for oblivion, painting a picture of desolation, boredom, and nothingness.

Cheery stuff? Not really. The play is typical Beckett existential angst in that there’s no real narrative; instead he creates a series of moods ranging from ‘ despair to sardonic humour, from hopelessness to hatred.’

Yet David, who plays Hamm, the tyrannical central character, loves it.

“You can get obsessed with Beckett,” he admits.

“I don’t have much to do with religion but this play deals with what is important in the human condition,” he enthuses.

“It asks questions, but doesn’t give answers – and that’s what I love about it. It makes us wonder about these games we play with each other, the filling in of time before we go. And that’s so true.

“Hamm says in one line; ‘I was never there.’ And what he means is we all worry about careers, and getting the best house prices, or whatever, but we don’t seem to really experience life.”

David argues the play is not all about the bleakness of the human condition.

“It’s also very, very funny and silly. This sort of relationship (between Hamm and Clov, the servant figure) can be seen in the likes of Steptoe and Son and Father Ted.

“In fact, I don’t think Steptoe could have been written without Beckett’s influence.”

Steptoe and Son and Father Ted were about entrapment, people prevented from realising their dreams.

David Neilson’s own career experience reflected that theme. Far from being a jazz hands-stage school kid, as a schoolboy he never once considered acting as a career.

“I didn’t set out to become an actor. I tried a few jobs as a teenager and ending up working for the Gas Board as an apprentice gas fitter.

“I can now do most domestic jobs. I can fit stuff, and I liked driving about in a van with the rest of the guys, but I came to realised I didn’t want to be there for fifty years.”

The notion of acting, it seems, seeped subliminally into his soul. The late teenager adored the kitchen sink movies of the time; Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, Billy Liar, Taste of Honey, and their central theme was about entrapment. The lead characters were all determined to escape from their black and white world.

“At that time, (he was twenty) my brother had auditioned for RADA, and that planted a seed. And acting sounded like fun so I began to see a few plays for the first time in my life at the Phoenix Theatre in Leicester.

“I saw Pinter’s The Caretaker, for example, and it really spoke to me.”

David Neilson’s life changed dramatically that Friday when he took the day off work and the train to London to audition for drama college, wearing workie jeans and, as concession to the arts world he hoped to enter, a new polo neck sweater.

“For some reason the teachers laughed at me, (in a good way) and they were all lovely people wearing tights and smelling wonderful, and they asked me to join a workshop.

“I’d never been in a workshop before that didn’t have a lathe.”

David loved his new world and went on to work for years in theatre and television before being recommended to Corrie casting directors for the part of Roy, a man on the learning difficulties spectrum, a borderline savant.

“Roy was initially a stalker, a dodgy geezer. They didn’t know where he was going to go, but once they formed the character it began to work.”

He adds, grinning; “I’m really glad they didn’t make him a psychopath. I quite fancied a five year stint in the Street and psychos never last that long.

“I was delighted he was paying the mortgage.”

David has worked her to give his character nuance, to make him comedic. And he managed it to the point Roy is now a central figure, a sage and an oracle.

“He’s very clever, yet he still struggles with life. And the storylines he’s had highlight this.

Didn’t they go too far when Roy had sex with Tracy Barlow?

“No, I loved that storyline,” he says, grinning. “Roy was technically a virgin and it was great to see how he could end up in bed with Tracy. (He was drugged and seduced by the soap’s resident witch).”

Now, David is delighted to step away from the cameras.

“It’s great to get away from television if only to appreciate what you have. I love the Street, but I’ll go back with a freshness.

“You see, what Beckett gives you is a text, that you can take back with you. The Street is good writing, but it’s disposable writing. Beckett with all his writing precision, can help you to find things in a TV script.”

David’s Citz appearance came about via an introduction to theatre director Dominic Hill by actor friend George Costigan.

When Dominic heard David and fellow Corrie star Chris Gascoyne were keen to do Endgame he signed the pair up.

“I need to be with people I want to work with,” says David. “That was a priority for me and Dominic and the Citizens’ ticks the boxes.”

“If I’m going to take a break from the Street to go back on the stage after eight years it has to be challenging.”

David is aware the challenge is to present the darkest, contrary, nihilistic insight into the human condition in as accessible way as possible.

“You won’t get all of this play, it’s like life itself,” admits the actor, with a knowing smile Roy Cropper seldom reveals.

“You’ll get bits of it though. But for me however, I get to play an absolute tyrant - and I’m loving it.”

*Endgame, the Citizens’ Theatre, February 4 – 20.