KAREN Bartke, best known as Scot Squad’s long-suffering desk sergeant, is a “complete coward” when it comes to ghost stories, she admits.

The East End actor, whose deadpan delivery as Officer Karen was a highlight of the long-running BBC Scotland mockumentary series - has found her latest role, as a player of "haunted" video games, distinctly unsettling.

“I find it all very creepy,” she says, adding with a laugh: “It has made me a little reluctant to play games late at night. When you’re alone, and it’s dark - that’s when it’s easier to imagine a game might be haunted….”

Glasgow Times: Karen Bartke as Officer Karen, with Darren Connell as Bobby, on Scot SquadKaren Bartke as Officer Karen, with Darren Connell as Bobby, on Scot Squad (Image: Comedy Unit/Alan Peebles)

Karen is starring in Playthrough, an eerie instalment of Oran Mor’s lunchtime theatre series, A Play A Pie and A Pint for Halloween week. It follows Biggs and Wedge as they play Killswitch and recount some of the most chilling digital tales ever told.

Writer Kenny Boyle will be starring alongside Karen.

“Video games, like Ouija boards, are as connected to that grey space on the borders of fear, and that’s exactly what this play is all about,” says Kenny.

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“We’re going to play a cursed video game. Live. And we’re going to tell you some ghost stories while we do, illuminated by the cold glow of a monitor instead of a campfire. It’s like we’re all putting our finger on one big Ouija board… and who knows what will answer?”

Karen says: “People are so passionate about gaming, particularly these big, immersive, open-world games. I found it fascinating, the whole idea of what happens when that passion tips over and you are not in control of it any more?”

The experience has also reminded Karen of a time when, during her early childhood, she believed her own house was haunted.

Glasgow Times: Karen BartkeKaren Bartke (Image: Martin Shields)

“I was convinced there was a man in the house, standing in the corner of my room,” she says. “I could describe him exactly. Our house had been part of a miners’ row of tenements in the East End.”

There is a twist to Playthrough, Karen explains - the audience gets to decide which haunting tales to hear and ultimately, the fate of the geeky protagonists.

“We worked out there are 2260 ways it could play out,” she grins. “Audiences will never see the same show twice. That’s really exciting for Kenny and I.”

Unpredictability does not faze Karen – Scot Squad was largely improvised, after all. In fact, had it not been for improv, the former research and development manager (for a firm which sold conveyancing information to solicitors) may not have landed her big break.

“I was petrified of improv,” she says. “So I joined comedy group Q-Fusion to get experience and Joe Hullait [Scot Squad creator] saw me performing, and invited me to audition.

“If it hadn’t been for that, my life would have been totally different.”

Glasgow Times: Karen with Kenny Boyle in rehearsals for PlaythroughKaren with Kenny Boyle in rehearsals for Playthrough (Image: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan)

On the show, Karen quickly became half of one of Scottish comedy’s best double acts – permanently exasperated Officer Karen, and hapless but lovable Bobby (Darren Connell).

“I loved it,” she sighs. “I do miss it, but I can’t ever feel hard done by, as we did eight series. Darren is a genius, he is so inventive. The crew were all incredible too. I’m very proud of it.”

Karen always wanted to be an actor, she says. “I remember my aunt taking me to see a Mitchell Theatre production of Bugsy Malone when I was about 10 and thinking, oh, that’s what I want to do," she says.

“But I came to it quite late in the end. I moved to a new house, when I was in my 30s, and I found the programme for that show in one of the boxes. It brought it all back to me, seeing it again. I could remember exactly how it felt.”

Karen decided to take a leap of faith and start auditioning, but acting remained “very much a hobby” until she was made redundant.

“It felt like too good an opportunity to miss,” she says. “My boss had been so supportive, giving me time off for acting, and I could do it without the pressure of having to do it to pay my bills. It gave me the time to work out if it was what I really wanted to do, if it was what made me happy.”

She adds, smiling: “Which it was. And it does. And to be making my debut at Play Pie Pint this week is fantastic. It’s iconic.”

Playthrough is at Oran Mor until Saturday, November 4.