ELAINE C Smith doesn’t have to think for more than a nano second when asked if we are ever more than six feet away from a Glasgow gangster at any one time.

“I lived around the corner from Tam McGraw, she says of the late drug trafficker, once worth £10m and often described as The Licensee, or the less delicate soubriquet, One Baw McGraw.

“He lived in Mount Vernon, too. It’s the typical journey of the gangster; move out of the housing scheme and into middle class respectability.”

It’s perhaps a slightly unusual question to throw at Smith, Scotland’s Queen of Comedy and panto star. But it’s apposite; this week the actress is appearing at Glasgow’s Oran Mor theatre in Ida Tamson.

Denise Mina’s tale tells of Ida, the ex-wife of gangster Hogg, a man very much in the McGraw mould. This middle-aged wife of the gangland drugs boss, we learn, has rejected her husband’s ill-gotten wealth, and has opted out of the Mount Vernon tennis court cosyness and instead lives in a single-end council flat in Barlanark.

Ida’s life now is focused on her two small grandsons, the children of a daughter who has become a tragic victim of drugs.

But despite coming to reject the evil which Hogg represents, Ida is nonetheless regarded by local women as toxic; she’ll be forever seen as a gangster’s moll, a woman who has helped incubate evil.

Ida wants to put the record straight and decides to tell her life story.

Director Lesley Hart explains: “That’s where Janine (Joy McAvoy) comes in. She’s an ambitious, talented young journalist who is working for a downmarket magazine but sees herself one day working for The Guardian. She wants to tell Ida’s story.”

But both Ida and Janine have their own agenda. They each have their own truth. And as questions are asked and answers argued, a contest develops, allowing for themes of atonement, motherhood, female solidarity and morality to emerge.

Theatre: Ida Tamson, Oran Mor, Glasgow, Mary Brennan, five stars

But what of this connection between reasonably intelligent women and gangsters – the Babs Windsor/Princess Margaret syndrome?

Ever since gangsters emerged from the slime there have always been women ready to step into a pair of expensive high-heeled shoes and play the roll of The Moll.

“It’s about power,” says Smith, with a wry smile. “I know of this correlation between power and sex because I once made a documentary with ex-murderer and Barlinnie prisoner Hugh Collins.

“Collins told me about the gangster life and the women who are drawn to them and he explained to me that the further up the pecking order you go, the more attractive to women you are. They get turned on by this power.

“What he also told me, and this was fascinating, was that the violence also fuelled his sex drive. He revealed that when he gave up violence and married he was impotent for a year. It illustrates this absolute link for some people, between power, violence and sex.”

Has Smith ever felt a little drawn to the darkness? The actress, who stars in BBC Scotland’s hit comedy Two Doors Down, says: “I have to admit that when I was young I was attracted to bad boys. Not the evil bad, the slightly dangerous. In fact I married one.

“My husband Bob, was part of a dangerous world. He grew up in the Calton in the East End of Glasgow, and once had a meat cleaver through his ear and a severed artery. His pal Alec had a machete stuck in the back of his skull. This was a world of murders. Violence was all so common.”

The growing mind of the violent and criminal is hothoused in poverty, says Smith. “Ida and Hogg met when they were young. He has power and money. And she’s the young good-looking girl who is also part of this world and she’s seduced by this.”

Ida Tamson, Denise Mina’s first play, was written 13 years ago. But its theme of lost lives and shifting loyalties and despair is still relevant today.

Drugs are even more prevalent, a major currency. “That’s true,” says Smith. “And while education used to be a bridge out of that world, that doesn’t seem to be the case nowadays.”

Ida Tamson is also a morality tale. The drugs are the reason why Ida – a complicated woman, uneducated yet street smart, fragile yet strong – leaves Hogg. “It was sort of acceptable when the money came from extortion or whatever, but once he became involved in drugs, and then their daughter begins taking them, Ida says she wants nothing to do with him.”

Lesley Hart (who stars in River City as cop Lou Caplan) concurs: “This play has been updated. There are current references to the world as it is now. Have you noticed since Brexit has been going on all the racists are crawling out of the woodwork. Racism is more toxic.”

There is another dimension to the play which heightens the drama. We learn, via the journalist, that a young pretender to Hogg’s throne, The Flesher, (played by Paul James Corrigan) is connected to Ida’s daughter.

But what does he know of her death? Is she in fact dead? “He is handsome, funny, and even more dangerous,” says Smith of the young hoodlum. “And he’s so representative of the young criminal who is out there on the streets today.”

The play also features the crucial battle between Ida and Hogg over her daughter, an attempt to save her life. “It’s a story of heroism,” says Hart. “Ida has to work out his weaknesses in order to come up with a plan. What we’ve got is some real intricate writing, with real magic in there. There is an astonishing darkness and a sharp edge.”

Smith, back with the Play, Pie and a Pint series for only the second time agrees: “This is a story told on different levels. It’s about the relationship between Ida and the journalist. It’s about the fact people are rarely what they suggest they are. It’s about gangsters and why women are still attracted to them. But it’s also about the price people have to to pay for the choices they make.”

There is little doubt the actress is delighted to be reprising her role. “I’m a better actress than I was 13 years ago,” she says, then adding with a smile, “I’m also a granny now. That gives you and added perspective.”

Ida Tamson, Oran Mor, Glasgow, until Saturday.