When Hamish Clark went from his home in Broughty Ferry in Dundee to
Edinburgh University to study English Literature, he never meant to
become an actor. When he joined the student theatre company,
performing, writing and putting plays together, a career on the stage
began to seem like a possibility.
It took a few years working in factories, shops and other jobs to get
by, but Clark suddenly found himself a familiar face through appearing
in a series of ads for a mobile phone company, then as a regular for
seven years in Sunday night drama series, Monarch of the Glen.
This week, however, Clark returns to the stage at the north London
based Park Theatre in the UK premiere of American writer John Cariani's
2005 Broadway hit, Almost Maine. Cariani's play is set in a small
American town in the thick of winter where over the course of one cold
and frosty evening, various couples fall in and out of love at exactly
the same moment in nine two-person vignettes.
In contrast to it's setting, Almost Maine is possessed with a warmth
that has seen it become one of the most performed plays of the last
decade, with some 2000 theatre companies having produced it in America
alone. While the play has been performed across the world, for this
production by the Go People company, Cariani has updated his script in
a way that makes its milieu even more resonant.
“It's about love,” says Clark, who plays three very different roles,
“but it's also about what that means in practice, from extreme joy to
extreme heartbreak. All the scenes are independent of each other, but
gradually come together in this magical little world. That's kind of
fun, but it's also very human. It's trying to set a path through human
experience without either being too cynical or too schmaltzy. Of
course, real life does have those moments, and I suspect part of why
the play has such a broad spectrum of appeal is that you recognise all
of it, but then there are one or two moments in it where you think,
'Oh, God, he's written about me'.”
Prior to Almost Maine, Clark spent much of 2012 and 2013 in America,
where he signed up with an agent and a manager, and spent his time
work-shopping assorted projects in various degrees of development. As
well as the move rekindling a desire to write, it also made Clark
realise why he'd become an actor in the first place.
“For some reason I remembered all these TV shows which were all filmed
there,” he says, “so I can see a through line there with what I've
ended up doing. When I was a kid in Broughty Ferry playing cowboys in
the garden, I didn't run round going bang bang. I used to sit in the
shed and imagine I was going across prairies and stuff like that. I
didn't live particularly near to other children, so I'd play on my own
in the garden, and even then I loved films like Butch Cassidy and the
“When I was little there was a TV programme called Alias Smith and
Jones, with Ben Murphy and Pete Duel playing these two outlaws trying
to reform, and I just used to be them for months. There was The Six
Million Dollar Man as well, and I think these TV shows chimed a bell
for a lot of people. They were the last days really of being something
to believe in. You didn't know who Ben Murphy or Pete Duel were married
to or anything like that, so they were totally believable. It was
before the days of celebrity, and you still had a sense of wonder
enough to believe it when you saw the Six Million Dollar Man ran in
slow-motion. It could access your mind and your imagination, and I
suppose that never really went away.”
While playing Duncan for seven years put Clark on the map in a way that
now allows him to explore opportunities stateside, it also distracted
him from other things he's only now starting to think about again.
“You're shooting for five months of the year for seven years,” he says,
“and inbetween each series there's not really time to do much else. I
did a lot of things around the show as well, so it becomes
all-consuming, and time seems to stand still for a bit. Your
character's not getting any older, but then you realise you are.”
Clark left the show mid-way through series six, returning along with
other series stalwarts for the very final series .
“You've got to get over a show like that,” he says. “My name's Hamish,
I'm five-foot six with sticky-up hair, and most of the time in the show
I wore a kilt, so it's quite difficult to get beyond all that when you
go up for a part that's completely different, but that's all part of
it, and I've done okay. Monarch of the Glen went around the world, so
people come up to you in such strange places, and it meant a lot to a
lot of people. It's not gritty drama, it's just wallpaper, but it's
still a very powerful thing to be part of.”
The mobile phone ad that he was associated with had already proven to
be equally powerful.
“On one level it's just an advert,” he says, “but then you go, wait a
minute, I'm just a boy from Broughty Ferry, and I'm standing in the
desert in Africa doing this thing. It used to be funny getting in a
cab, and you'd see yourself on an ad on the back of the seat, and the
cabbie would laugh. That's no credit to me, that's the power of
advertising, but I'd rather people looked at me and smiled than not.”
Whether there are many laughs in Almost Maine remains to be seen, but,
like most things Clark touches, it should be full of heart.
“It's the kind of play I'd want to go and see,” he says. “It talks
quite profoundly about the human condition, but the style of writing is
very accessible, so it's deep, and it has important things to say, but
you're not going to be sat there wondering what's going on. It's not
long either. Sometimes you can achieve all you need to say in a short
story than in a seven-hundred page novel, and hopefully you walk out
afterwards a bit more hopeful.”
Almost Maine, Park Theatre, London, December 16-January 17 2015.
Hamish Clark was born in Broughty Ferry in Dundee in 1965, and studied
English Literature at Edinburgh University, where he joined Edinburgh
University Theatre Company.
Clark first came to prominence in a series of ads for a mobile phone
company, and later became even more familiar from his recurring role as
Duncan McKay in TV favourite, Monarch of the Glen.
Prior to Almost Missouri, Clark's theatre credits include Donkey’s
Years (Comedy Theatre) and The Agent (Old Red Lion).
Television credits include Arrested Development, Rab C. Nesbitt, Small
Fish and Blessed, while film work includes The Decoy Bride, Liz & Dick,
The House, After the Rain and The Only Boy for Me.
The Herald, December 16th 2014