FOR most people in Scotland actor Jane McCarry will be synonymous with the much loved character of Isa Drennan, the nosey neighbour with the detective skills of a secret agent, in hit TV sitcom Still Game. Many children and young people will know her as Granny Murray in the popular CBeebies show Me Too!

However, despite her TV fame, the multiple Scottish Bafta winner has never lost her passion for live theatre. The actor, who hails from Glasgow, but trained at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, has continued to work in the theatre throughout her illustrious 30-year career.

McCarry has performed in a diverse series of stage shows over the years, ranging from pantomime in many of the country’s top theatres to the Still Game Live shows in the huge Hydro auditorium at the SEC in Glasgow. Memorably, back in 2012, she was part of the National Theatre of Scotland’s acclaimed production of Michel Tremblay’s famous play The Guid Sisters.

Varied though her theatre work has been, however, there’s been little in the actor’s career to compare with her latest project. With Covid restrictions still making indoor work in Scottish theatres a very difficult proposition, McCarry is joining the cast of Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s outdoor production of Kenneth Grahame’s evergreen children’s tale The Wind in the Willows.

The famous book has been adapted by playwright Mark Powell and will be co-directed by PFT’s ever-inventive artistic director Elizabeth Newman and her associate director Ben Occhipinti. The show will be performed on and around the Perthshire theatre’s riverside bandstand, one of two new outdoor performance spaces the venue has created in response to the public health crisis.

McCarry, who plays the role of the always wise, but often grumpy, Badger (among other characters) can’t contain her enthusiasm for the production. She’s currently rehearsing the family show in the splendour of PFT’s grounds, in the lovely foothills of the Highlands.

“There’s no better place to do a play about animals that live on a riverbank,” the actor tells me, “than literally on a riverbank!” Rehearsing the show in the theatre’s grounds is full of unexpected pleasures, she says.

“The light streaming through the trees is beautiful. There isn’t a lighting designer in the world who could achieve that. It’s fabulous.”

The other day, she continues, she thought the show’s sound designer was playing some brilliant watery sound effects. However, it only took her a moment to realise that it was actually the sound of the River Tummel burbling behind her.

McCarry’s been around long enough to know that journalists are accustomed to hearing actors saying great things about their forthcoming project, regardless of what they really think of it. In this case, she assures me, with an honesty even a fine actor such as herself would struggle to fake, she couldn’t be more genuine.

“Sometimes [as an actor], when you’re doing a job, you’re positive because you know you have to be,” she admits. “But, really, this job has been a joy.

“Everyone in the company is great and it’s outside in these lovely surroundings. The show’s going to be great for kids, it’s really interactive. It’s going to be great fun.”

McCarry is playing three lead characters (namely, Badger, Horse and Washerwoman), “which means”, she comments, “that you can have lots of fun”. Sure, she says, “Badger is a wee bit serious, and a wee bit grumpy, and Horse is a bit grumpy, too, but you can have lots of fun with that.”

Washerwoman, by contrast, is “outrageous”, she comments, with a laugh. “She’ll be interacting with the audience and winding up the kids.”

As if this trio of characters isn’t enough, McCarry will be popping up in smaller roles, too. “I’m also a hedgehog at one point,” she notes. “It’s fast and furious and busy.”

It is well over a century since Grahame’s book was first published, in 1908. Many of today’s parents, grandparents and guardians will first have encountered the story in the TV film, made in 1983, which starred David Jason as the voice of Toad of Toad Hall. PFT has brought it up to date a little, not least in casting some of the lead characters, such as Badger and Mole, as female.

ANOTHER area in which the play is topical is in the gentle way in which it relates to our coming, tentatively out of Covid lockdown.

“It’s current in the sense that the core of the story is that Mole comes out of her hole and into this big, open world,” the actor explains.

“It’s saying that it’s not good to be solitary, and that you should come outside and see the sky. There are references to it having been a particularly long winter, and the animals having been in hibernation.

“So, although it doesn’t mention Covid directly, it is very relevant to everything that we’ve all just been through.”

McCarry is full of praise of Powell’s adaptation. Grahame’s book may date back to 1908, but the play, she says, is perfect for modern audiences.

“It’s really fresh,” she enthuses. “Honestly, it makes me laugh every time we do it.”

Unsurprisingly, given the actor’s well-established facility for comedy, she loves the humour of the play. “Toad’s really naughty,” she comments.

Unlike in pantomime, she continues, “the hero’s not a goody-goody. In our show, the hero is the naughtiest boy of all. I think that’s a great hero to get behind.”

The actor thinks a trip to Pitlochry to see The Wind of the Willows is the perfect day out for people with young children. “People should come from Glasgow, Dundee, Perth, Fife, Edinburgh, anywhere roundabout,” she says.

“You can have a picnic on the lawn, bring your chairs, see the show, go for a walk, explore the beautiful, wee town, get yourself chips and ice cream, and you’re home by 8 o’clock, if you want.”

The Wind in the Willows is at Pitlochry Festival Theatre, July 2 to September 12. For further information, visit: