Remembering Andy Gray

January 18, 2021 | By | 4 Replies More

Memories of the comic genius who was Andy

The news Andy Gray’s death over the weekend has prompted an outpouring of sorrow, because the memories of those who knew him are so joyful.

Whether you grew up with the Edinburgh King’s panto, you witnessed his early work at Perth or with Borderline, you worked with him, you directed him, you interviewed him or you simply hung out with him in the bar after shows, he was a pal. 

I remember reviewing the 2001 panto at the King’s which had something of a dream team going. Gerard Kelly was over from Glasgow as Smee, Juliet Cadzow was Mrs Darling, Gail Watson Peter Pan, Grant Stott was coming into his own as Starkey.

But it was Andy playing Mr Darling and Captain Hook who drew the plaudits.

“If Gray is a commanding Mr Darling,” I wrote at the time, “he could have been born to play Captain Hook. It’s not just his presence on the stage, but his understanding of the dynamics of an over-excited audience at full bay.”

I suppose it is that understanding of the dynamics of that pantomime audience which really endeared Andy to us all. He knew exactly how to keep us laughing with a carefully prepared depth charge just when you thought it was safe to draw breath again.

One of the delights – and drawbacks – of reviewing pantomimes around the country is that some routines make their appearance in more than one production by the same producer. You could be sure that Andy, with Grant Stott and Alan Stewart, would always make the latest offering their own.

And of course, there was his low grumble: “I’m no very well”. Augmented, it must be remembered, with his ability to repeat a word, rolling its vowels around his tongue until it all but becomes meaningless.

“Balloon,” he might say. “Balloooon… bá-loon, ballooen ” taking two syllables and making a multitude – a phonetic hotchpotch of invention. And as for his ability to draw every single nuance from the old chestnuts… well, it bring tears of laughter to the eye just to think of them.

Gray may have had an ear for comedy but it wasn’t only pantomime which made his name, of course. On stage with legendary touring company Borderline, Dario Fo hailed the 1985 production of Trumpets and Raspberries – starring Andy with Elaine C. Smith and Alan Cumming – as “The best my play’s ever been done outside Italy!”

Tickets to the festival are free and available with further details of the day, on EventBrite here: Whose Festival Is It Anyway?

I seems he was equally on form with his fellow actors. Iain Johnstone remembers, on Twitter: “Andy and I were in one of the worst shows ever to have disgraced the Scottish stage.

“I realised I had a chum when at the read through on day one, I became aware of a pen repeatedly tapping the table, it was Andy “…- – – …”  SOS. Our eyes met and I picked up my pen…”

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Comments (4)

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  1. Gareth Jacobs says:

    Thanks so much, Thom, for the excellent overview of one of my favourite people, now, very sadly, no longer with us. I had some contact with Andy at the King’s and at my former workplace at the Lyceum. A man indeed of many talents and for me, the personification of “personable”. A great character – both inside and out. He will be missed by me and many, many others. Thank you.

  2. Willie McEwan says:

    A great tribute to The great Andy Gray his life deserves a book written, a play performed and a film made to capture this very very special mans very talented career

  3. Graeme Baillie says:

    While we share our memories and stories Andy will live on. And he will live on for a very long time! But we will all miss a giant of Scottish theatre. RIP.

  4. Jackie Dow says:

    Lovely tribute to Andy

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