EdinburghNews.com February 17, 2005
Exciting stage in Sean's career

LIAM RUDDEN

NEW YORK CITY, shouts Sean Biggerstaffís T-shirt in big bold letters, declaring him to be a man of the world - but then his socks sport images of Scooby Doo. And donít ask the youthful-looking 21-year-old to smile for a photo, he likes the mean and moody look.

Thoughtful and witty, the quirky actor approaches interviews with a detached bafflement, giving the impression he has yet to suss out why anyone would want to write about him although heís aware that they do.

In the Wyndham Bar of the Royal Lyceum, over a coffee and sandwich lunch, he starts off by revealing that he hasnít been on a stage for five years, and he is happy to admit to being nervous as he muses on the fact that tomorrow the action of the rehearsal room shifts to the stage of the Lyceum ahead of Saturdayís world premiere of The Girl with the Red Hair - a new play by Sharman Macdonald in which Biggerstaff will lead the company.

"Itís a bit of a culture shock," he confesses. "I actually grew up doing theatre but then spent years doing bits and bobs on film and TV, I really wish I could have continued doing both."

A five-year stage sabbatical may indeed seem extreme for any young actor intent on forging a career in the business, but then Biggerstaff has been busy. And if his face looks familiar - albeit a bit older - the chances are youíve seen one of the first two Harry Potter movies.

In fact, anyone under the age of 18 is unlikely to have to think twice before telling you that Biggerstaff played Oliver Wood, captain of the Gryffindor quidditch team, in the teenage wizardís first two cinematic outings. Biggerstaff was just 18 when Harry Potter and the Philosopherís Stone, the first of those movies hit the big screen, and looking back he says that, while he knew they would be popular, nothing could have prepared him for the international attention they attracted.

Surprisingly, however, being a part of the whole Harry Potter phenomenon hasnít changed Biggerstaffís life as much as many people might imagine, he insists.

"Iíd heard of the books of course. I read the first one on the way to the audition and I loved it. But being a kidsí movie I just thought it might be quite big as kidsí movies go. I had no concept of how it would grow over the course of the production," Biggerstaff says.

"Every now and again I have to check myself - itís strange to remember that you were in what was, at the time, the second biggest movie ever at the box office."

Although Biggerstaffís character didnít return for the third movie, The Prisoner of Azkaban, despite an online petition sporting 54,362 signatures fighting to have his character reinstated, the actor is unperturbed.

"I get a lot of condolences from people but I wasnít all that bothered - thatís not to say that I didnít enjoy doing it. But in this line of work if you donít want to end up a quivering wreck you have to discipline yourself into not getting upset about things."

The son of a fireman and community education worker, Biggerstaff was born in Glasgow, where he still lives. Having decided at age eight that he was going to be an actor - "I knew when I played Buttons in the Maryhill Youth Theatre panto that this was what I wanted to do," he laughs - he then joined the Scottish Youth Theatre. His first experience of filming came at age 13 when he was cast in The Winter Guest, another piece by Sharman Macdonald, directed by Alan (Professor Severus Snape) Rickman.

"You take everything in your stride at 13, it doesnít occur to you how big a deal things are, but Alanís been great ever since. We still keep in touch and The Winter Garden was just a great place to start a film career."

The Girl with the Red Hair is Macdonaldís first new work in six years and reunites the playwright not only with Biggerstaff but also with actresses Sandra Voe and Sheila Reid.

Biggerstaff explains: "They play two old ladies, Sadie and Ina, who are recurring themes in Sharmanís work - theyíre very like Chloe and Lilly, the parts they played in The Winter Guest and are likely to steal every scene they are in."

Although the audience never meet the girl with the red hair she dominates the play, which is a study of grief and grieving.

When 17-year-old Roslyn dies, strangers, friends, and family in her small town on the East coast of Scotland are unwittingly united by their grief.

One year after her death, Roslynís boyfriend Matt has moved on but his new girlfriend Corrine, feels she is still battling with the memory of Roslyn.

Roslynís mother, feels such an overwhelming sense of loss she has trouble finding the will to rise in the morning. Meanwhile, two young girls who barely knew Roslyn play make believe, whilst two ladies in their autumn years bicker over lilies, vinegar, and fish.

Biggerstaff plays Matt, with Patricia Kerrigan as Roslynís mother and Emma Campbell-Jones as his new girlfriend. The cast is completed by Helen McAlpine, Joanne Cummins, Christopher Dunne and Voe and Reid.

"The wonderful thing about Sharmanís work is that, when the dialogue is that good and that real, the important thing as an actor is not to get in the way of it, not to try and do too much which is an easy trap to fall into," says Biggerstaff, adding: "I love it. I think everyone will take to it in a totally different way - itís quite an unusual piece."