EVEN bona-fide acting legends, with Hollywood blockbusters and top TV dramas under their belts, get nervous, admits David Hayman.

The Bridgeton-born star of - among many, many others - A Sense of Freedom, Sid and Nancy, The Jackal, Rob Roy and Trial and Retribution, is returning to the Glasgow stage in Cyprus Avenue, David Ireland’s nerve-rattling drama about an Ulster Protestant who believes his new baby granddaughter is Republican leader Gerry Adams.

“We did at the Tron – 250 seats – and now we’re in the Pavilion – 1400 seats,” he says, with a grin. “Squeaky bum time….it’s really exciting though. I’ve never acted on the Pavilion stage before, so this is all new for me.

“There is a great love of theatre in Glasgow, always has been, ever since the days of variety."

He digresses. “Do you know at one point there were about 40 cinemas and 40 theatres in Glasgow?" he asks. "That’s incredible."

When Cyprus Avenue had its Scottish premiere at the Tron last year, audiences and critics were blown away by David’s mesmerising performance as a man tipped over the edge by a series of increasingly dark events which move swiftly from hilarity to horror, and come to a truly spine-chilling end.

Glasgow Times: David HaymanDavid Hayman (Image: Colin Mearns/Newsquest)

“It is a fascinating play, a challenging one,” he agrees. “Audiences are in a state of shock by the end. You feel it, on stage. You can sense the audience turn, and you can hear the sharp intake of breath when they realise that yes, this is where we are going….It is genuinely shocking.

"It's work of genius, in my opinion.”

David adds: “David Ireland is very, very clever in his approach – I mean, he is asking audiences to accept the absurd premise that I believe my baby granddaughter is Gerry Adams.”

He laughs: “Although one reviewer said the whole thing was ‘completely unbelievable’ which is of course, absolutely missing the point. It is absurd. Sectarianism is absurd.

“Glasgow, a city steeped in sectarianism, is the obvious place to do this play. The other place I’d love to do it is Belfast. We haven’t managed that yet, but it would be great to take it there if we could. Right into the belly of the beast…”

Glasgow Times:

After Cyprus Avenue concludes its Pavilion run, David is heading back to Malawi with Spirit Aid, the humanitarian relief organisation he set up in 2001.

Dedicated to alleviating the suffering of children and young people whose lives have been affected by poverty, neglect, abuse, lack of opportunity, humanitarian crisis or war, it now has operations running in Scotland, Palestine, Afghanistan and Malawi.

“The country was hit hard by hurricanes before Christmas,” says David. “It has been really terrible for them. So that’s what I’m doing next.”

David, 76, reveals he is also filming a second series of Protection, a new ITV drama starring Happy Valley’s Katherine Kelly and Siobhan Finneran. Kris Mrksa’s drama – the first season of which will air later this year – follows the work of witness protection officers.

“It’s a really smashing series, all about the officers who protect the people - goodies and baddies - holed up in safe houses,” he explains.

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Fans can also watch him in Raging Grace, a Gothic horror-style movie doing the film festival rounds, all about an undocumented Filipina cleaner who lands what appears to be a dream job looking after a mansion and its ailing, bedridden owner (played by David).

“Paris [Zarcilla, the film’s director] is a director who is really going places, I think,” says David.

“This is another metaphor, of course, like Cyprus Avenue. It’s a metaphor for slavery, white supremacism, racism – it was really exciting to do. There were only four of us, and it was very unsettling. I spend a lot of time in a bed hooked up to an oxygen mask, but I really loved it.”

He pauses.

“Actually, for something like the last three parts I’ve had, I’ve ended up in hospitals or on oxygen masks,” he says, with a short laugh. “I hope that’s not a sign of things to come.

“I don’t get offered heroes any more, just guys hooked up to oxygen….”

Cyprus Avenue is at the Pavilion Theatre from Tuesday, February 27 to Saturday, March 2.