FOR HIS forthcoming role in epic adventure series Outlander, Kevin Lennon has to sport what can only be described as a magnificent, massive moustache.
“It’s quite something,” grins the actor, who lives in Glasgow’s west end. “It is the most fantastic, Ned Flanders-style moustache and I didn’t even have to try and grow it myself. It was just applied to my face. I’m very excited about it.”
Kevin adds: “I can’t really say very much more about the role other than I’m playing Lionel Menzies, who is the headteacher of a primary school. And that it was a brilliant experience to be part of Outlander, which has become such a finely-tuned, massive machine of a show.
“About 98 per cent of my work is in the theatre, so I am a complete rookie when it comes to TV and it was so interesting to be part of it. I’ve filmed a couple of scenes and I’m going back in December, so I can’t wait.”
Currently, however, Kevin is playing French playwright, actor and poet Moliere in Morna Pearson’s Impromptu, the latest in Oran Mor’s A Play A Pie and A Pint lunchtime theatre series.
Marking the 400th anniversary of Moliere’s birth, it is adapted from his witty and unique work L’Impromptu de Versailles, in which the playwright deftly takes a swipe at his critics.
“Moliere had completely fallen out of favour with the King and society – in fact, he had so upset everyone, and the medical profession in particular, that not a single doctor would treat him when he fell ill,” says Kevin. “I mean, that is actually why he died. The king wanted him to write something funny, nothing too challenging – he didn’t want anything that held up a mirror to society. So, by writing a play within a play, he managed to get a satire out of it anyway.”
He adds: “In Morna’s version, Moliere is a down-on-his luck actor, director and writer who is tasked with putting on a play for a VIP with just 45 minutes to rehearse and a small cast.
“He’s a bit like a Basil Fawlty character – this slightly mad man who believes that without him, the place can’t function when in fact, it would run much more smoothly if he wasn’t involved at all.”
A play about a small cast trying to whip up a play with little time to rehearse does have its parallels with what PPP does every week, admits Kevin, with a laugh.
“There are similarities, because there is a sense of haste at PPP and it can be quite mad,” he adds, smiling. “Perhaps not quite as mad as this.”
Kevin was “obsessed” with films when he was a child.
“I loved films, I watched them all the time and I think that’s where this single-minded obsession about being an actor came from,” he says, adding with a laugh: “I was a pretty precocious teenager, so I felt it was important to watch a lot of foreign language films. Equally, I loved Jurassic Park. My favourite was The Shining – the first time I watched it I was about 14, alone in this empty old house in Dumfries, and it scared the sh** out of me….”
Kevin grew up in “a bump-in-the-road” village not far from Lockerbie, and at the age of 15 he joined Scottish Youth Theatre in Glasgow. He studied drama at Trinity College in Dublin and has worked in a variety of stage and screen productions ever since, including Whisky Galore at Dundee Rep, Hector with the Eden Court Theatre and The Broons.
“Funnily enough, I didn’t really know that much about The Broons,” he admits. “My mum is English, from Birmingham, my dad is from Belfast, so I had this weird relationship with Scottish culture. I grew up knowing much more about English and Irish culture, and I felt a bit like an outsider because my parents felt like outsiders.
“But The Broons, in which I played one of the twins, was a really special show, for several reasons – it was one of the first I did after taking a break from acting for a couple of years, and it was where I met my partner Kim.”
Kevin decided to quit acting temporarily after a seven-year run at Dundee Rep.
“It was a really joyous time – everything I had ever wanted to do, but it was also hard, hard work and I was burnt out and needed a break,” he explains.
“I had been planning to leave for about a year, living on vegetable crumble and tins of Campbell soup to save up so I could take a break, and in 2014 I started saying no to auditions, and stopped.”
He adds: “I needed to do it, but I did miss it. And when the money ran out, I needed to come back.”
Kevin pauses. “Acting was all I ever dreamed of doing, so I do feel very lucky that I can earn a living from it,” he explains. “It is difficult, it can be hit and miss and there are ups and downs, but mostly it’s just a joy to be doing it.”
He adds: “I’m doing PPP next week, Outlander in December and between those two? Who knows.”
He grins. “That is the joy of being a jobbing actor, you never know what’s next.”
Impromptu, directed by André Agius and starring Kevin, David McKnight, Julia Murray and Mary Gapinski, is at Oran Mor from Monday, September 12, until Saturday, September 17.