KEITH Fleming is about as far from the jazz hands-look-at-me-ma-I’m-dancing acting type as John Bercow is from an invite to the Prime Minister’s house for tea.

Although he loves acting (Fleming is starring this week in Oran Mor comedy musical Mack The Knife, telling of the creation of Brecht’s Threepenny Opera) Fleming, it seems, enjoys playing more than one character in real life.

He’s been an artist, a barman, a joiner and a Oran Utan rescuer. And not only did he not grow up a performing child, he’s a natural talent who auditioned successfully for the prestigious Guildhall drama college in London - despite never having acted in his life.

Edinburgh-born Fleming reveals that when he took off to London aged 18, it was to attend art school.

A creative, but complicated, angular character? Seems so. Yet, growing up he was never given the chance to play the role of Ordinary Schoolboy. “My mum and dad had divorced and mum didn’t have much money so from the age of 11 I worked,” he recalls. “I would be shelf-stacking or in a restaurant and then labouring. I was working three or four nights a week.”

When a teacher suggested the teenager try out for an upcoming Pirates of Penzance production, Fleming liked the idea of it. But work, football, girls – and Highers – had to be factored in. “I just didn’t have time to rehearse as well.”

Although the notion of acting remained in his head, aged 18 Fleming took of to London. To paint. Yet, the prestigious Chelsea College of Arts didn’t command the teenager’s full attention.

The move south was more about discovering Bohemian life and himself than becoming an art master. “I went because I was offered a place,” he admits, grinning. “My art teacher at school knew I could come up with product when I had a deadline, but he said I was lazy and I would never get in. So I guess I got a portfolio together to prove him wrong.”

Fleming wasn’t a lazy Bohemian. He secured a part bar job on his first day in London. But his commitment to hard graft didn’t cross over into painting. “You are given a studio and you have to just get on with it.” But he didn’t. Much of the time he’d go walking around London, listening to the Stone Roses or the Happy Mondays on his Walkman, “soaking up life.”

“I had this notion in my head I should have gone to Drama college,” he says in reflective voice. But he’d never acted. “So I watched and read plays and went to a drama tutor to help me prepare an audition speech, and he told me that because I’d done no acting whatsoever I’d never get in.”

The tutor was wrong. And since leaving London at the end of the Nineties he has gone on to work in a range of great theatre roles, with the likes of Dundee Rep and the National Theatre of Scotland.

His incredible reviews for the likes of The Lonesome West at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow was entirely deserved.

But acting doesn’t define him. He’s a conservationist and a political animal who also loves animals. A few years back he took off to Borneo to work with Oran Utans, building walkways across swamps with native carpenters and coping with giant deadly spiders. “Part of me would have liked to become a vet.”

Clearly, Keith Fleming is a man who likes to play several roles off stage? “Well, I suppose,” he says grinning. “I adore acting. It’s a job I would never change. But you can’t let anything control your life.”

Right now he’s wallowing in his work with Mack The Knife, set in Berlin in 1928, in which he plays Kurt Gerron, and several other characters, which parallels the Brechtian style. “It’s a good story in which we follow a play being written as it goes along, with the background being the rise of Nazism.” He smiles wryly, “It hints a little bit like the right-wing mix we have in the country right now.”

Fleming still has his escapes from acting. When not performing he’s working with a window frames company. But what of the Orang Utans? Were they better behaved than some of the actors he’s worked with. “Absolutely,” he says, grinning. “At least the apes speak their minds – they spit and blow raspberries. And they are always in the moment.”

Mack The Knife, Oran Mor, Glasgow, until Saturday.