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David Hayman - Every Inch A King

David Hayman was sitting in a pub the other week, watching the Celtic 
versus Rangers match with his sons and some pals. After Rangers went 
one nil up, there was a shout from the back of the room. 'Haw, Lear,' 
came the voice. 'Whit ye gonnae do about that?' Quick as a flash, 
Hayman replied, 'I'll have them all beheaded on Monday', and the entire 
room erupted into applause.

“That's Glasgow for you,” smiles the Glasgow-born actor and director 
who some might know best from his twelve year tenure as Detective Mike 
Walker in Lynda La Plante's cops and robbers TV show, Trial and 
Retribution. Sitting in the foyer of the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow on 
a soup and sandwich break from rehearsing the title role in Dominic 
Hill's new production of King Lear, it's clear from the black wooly hat 
and check shirt combo that Hayman has come home to roost.

It was in this building, after all, where Hayman became the enfant 
terrible of a remarkable company formed at the dawn of the glorious 
thirty-four year reign of artistic directors Giles Havergal, Robert 
David MacDonald and Philip Prowse. It was Hayman who caused a scandal 
 from the off playing the title role of Hamlet in a production that made 
front page news with its scenes of near nudity and outrageous acting 
styles that inspired the headline, 'This gibbering idiot will surely 
close the Citizens.' Another decried the show as a 'naked Hamlet.'

“All the schools freaked out and cancelled their block bookings,” 
Hayman recalls. “But all the kids decided they really wanted to see a 
naked Hamlet, and they queued round the block every night. It was 

Forty years on, and with Hayman something of an elder statesman of 
stage and screen, whether Lear can match such stuff of legend remains 
to be seen. One thing certain, however, is Hayman's relish for the 
challenge of one of theatre's mightiest roles.

“It's a masterpiece,” he says. “It's got to be one of the greatest 
plays in the English language. It's so rich and so dense, and it raises 
so many issues about life, about social justice, greed, the abuse of 
power, capitalism, the bonds of family. It's all in there.”

While open and generous to all inquiries, Hayman won't be drawn on his 
interpretation of Lear.

“I'm still in a process of exploration,” he says, “but of course there 
are parameters. He's a very tough leader, who makes a foolish decision, 
falls from grace, gets rejected, ends up penniless and without his 
support systems, and then goes through a period of madness. Out of this 
madness comes a clarity and a lucidity as he sees humanity for the 
first time through a pauper's eyes, and he appreciates the man he's not 
been, but who is beginning to be. He's a king who learns to be a man.”

If such a well bullet-pointed dramatic arc doesn't quite match Hayman's 
own personal and professional development during the decade he spent at 
the Citz, his time there remains a crucial rite of passage.

“This was my creative home for ten years,” he says, “and it was an 
extraordinary ten years. I always wanted to be part of an ensemble 
company. I believed in theatre, and never wanted fame. I didn't come 
into the industry for that. I was perfectly happy to be in the Gorbals 
for ten years exercising my craft. I had a unique opportunity. Between 
the ages of twenty and thirty I played Hamlet twice, Lady Macbeth, 
Troilus, Nijinsky, Petrucchio. That's a wonderful training ground for 
any actor that's not available these days, and hasn't been available 
for a generation.”

Hayman left the Citz in 1979, then came back to direct John Byrne's  
Slab Boys trilogy for Mayfest.

“The last time I appeared on the stage was twenty-two years ago,” 
Hayman remembers, “and when I came here before Christmas I just stood 
on there on that stage, and got goosebumps. For six nights a week, ten 
months a year for ten years I was on that stage, and rehearsing during 
the day. That's an extraordinary commitment to a space, a theatre and a 
company. I'm sure lots of reverberations will come back when I'm on 
that stage again and in front of a Glaswegian audience. It's real here. 
There's something visceral.”

Hayman may be a key figure of Citizens history, but it wasn't a place 
he'd set his sights on after  graduating from RSAMD (now the Royal 
Conservatoire of Scotland). His immediate port of call was the Greek 
islands, where he bummed around, contemplating if he even wanted to be 
an actor. It was only on his return to Glasgow that he found out that 
Havergal, who'd watched his final diploma scenes, was looking for him. 
Hayman became the core of a company who took full outrageous advantage 
of the social and artistic freedoms the 1960s had bequeathed society.

“There was a creative angle of trying to look at the classics afresh, 
but Giles and David and Philip always believed that theatre should be 
scandalous. They weren't political, but they questioned the sexual 
mores of the time. That's why there was a lot of cross-gender casting.”

This was a long way from Hayman's beginnings as an apprentice in a 
steelyard in Possil after being kicked out of school aged sixteen. One 
day, the boiler-suited ingénue found himself walking off the bus to 
work from his Drumchapel home and up the steps of RSAMD, where he heard 
his own voice tell the receptionist that he wanted to be an actor.

“I don't know where it came from,” Hayman admits. “I was crippled with 
shyness as a teenager, but I think it might have come from going to see 
pantomime when I was a boy, with all that cross-dressing and gender 
confusion going on there as well.”

It took until Hayman played convicted killer Jimmy Boyle in John 
McKenzie's big-screen version of Boyle's autobiography, A Sense of 
Freedom, however, for Hayman's father to warm to the idea of his son 
being a successful, now mainstream, actor. By that time Hayman had 
already departed the Citz.

“It broke my heart to leave, but I guess we had to move on. I wanted to 
explore film and television, which I did, first as an actor, then as a 
director. That was a period I really enjoyed, and I didn't miss acting 
at all.”

While his stage directing continued, cast a young Iain Glen as Boyle's 
Barlinnie contemporary Larry Winters  in his 1990 feature, Silent Scream, then 
followed a path that led eventually to Trial and Retribution. Hayman 
returned to the stage for Six and A Tanner, a one-man play originally 
penned by Rony Bridges for Oran Mor's  A Play, A Pie and A Pint seasons 
of lunchtime theatre. Following a tour that included dates in HMP 
Barlinnie, the production looks set for an Edinburgh Festival Fringe 
revival. Last year as well Hayman appeared alongside Jude Law and Ruth 
Wilson in Eugene O'Neill's Anna Christie at the Donmar.

“There's a lot of my industry I'm very dis-enamoured with. Like the 
world, television is run on greed and ego. It's not creative integrity, 
and that wears thin after a while. Prancing around London in an Armani 
suit in front of a camera is never going to change the world. It's pure 
entertainment, which is fine, but I've never wanted to be an 
entertainer or a celebrity. I'm a performing artist, so rekindling my 
love of theatre again has been wonderful.”

If Hayman sounds totally energised talking about acting onstage, he 
moves up yet another gear when he mentions Spirit Aid, the charity he 
set up in 2001 to initiate humanitarian projects with children in areas 
of the world ravaged by war, poverty and other man-made ills.

“It's the most important part of my life,” Hayman enthuses. “The world 
is going to hell on a banana skin, and I couldn't just sit back and do 
nothing. Our moral compass has gone off beam. We spend over a thousand 
billion dollars on arms, and one per cent of that money could feed and 
educate everyone in the world.”

With an office just across the Clyde, Hayman again is getting back to 
his roots. He quotes a piece of native American philosophy that could 
easily be something Lear learnt the hard way.

“'We do not inherit the earth',” says Hayman. “'We borrow it from our 

King Lear, Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, April 20-May 12

The Herald, April 7th 2012



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