WHEN a story features a man who wanders in the woods and has conversations with a fox, a squirrel a heron and all manner of ethereal spirit creatures, you assume that man has been taking hallucinogenic drugs?

Actor Helen McAlpine grins and says that’s not necessarily the case at all. Dave Anderson’s play, A Walk In the Park, now running at Oran Mor, is more about a man going through something of an existentialist crises.

“It’s a magical realism story about one man who is in the winter of his life,” says McAlpine. “The man is suffering from depression and the death of a child and wondering what the point of the world is. We find him going over his life.”

The actor adds; “But there are real elements of comedy in the play, as you would expect from Dave Anderson (who also stars in the play). And it is also very upbeat in places. The play is set at night, when he’s at home and realises the world comes alive at night in a very different way.”

Has McAlpine known depression in her life? “I wouldn’t say that as such but working in a profession with its peaks and troughs is so all-consuming it can really test you. You have to work to not let bitterness affect you, especially when you are younger. And I’ve known actors who’ve given up on the business even after having had their busiest year. The feeling was if this is as good as it gets, it’s not quite good enough.”

She adds; “However, having a four year-old boy helps you separate from your working life. And what also helps is my husband and I live in the country now (in a house near Biggar) which is lovely and calm.”

McAlpine breaks into a grin; “We lived in Leith before now, and it’s very different to wake up and look out the window to see a Shetland pony in your garden, as opposed to a few drug dealers.”

McAlpine is a Scottish theatre success story and her comedic work is every bit as powerful as her drama. The actor, who also works continually in film and radio providing voice work, plays all of the woodland creatures, and a little girl in Dave Anderson’s play.

“If in doubt throw in an accent and it’s fine,” she smiles. It’s more than fine. McAlpine has starred in a range of pantos over the years, offering audiences Snow Whites to a variety of Wicked Queens. In her previous Oran Mor appearance one of her characters was a hilarious Charlie Chaplin.

And while at school she landed the role of the Artful Dodger, beating her own brother to the part. “Thankfully Neil was also a footballer,” she says, grinning, “so he was sort of accepting of the snub.”

Yet, while Motherwell- born McAlpine has major actor credentials, she points out the move to drama college wasn’t a clear-cut decision.

“When I applied to drama school I also applied to nursing college. I didn’t have a preference. I’d had a great drama teacher in Linda Blake at Dalziel High and I loved acting.

“But there is also this working class notion of doing something ‘real’ and so I applied for nursing college as well. However, I got into drama school and the rest is history.”

Two opposite worlds however were competing for her attention? “Well, I think nursing and acting actually go hand in hand.” What? How? Do you think actors care about anyone else? Aren’t they all bandaged in solipsism? “No, not at all,” she laughs. “Actors do care. And I should know because I married one.”

McAlpine is married to actor James Mckenzie (her father-in-law is actor Michael McKenzie) who has starred in River City, and was Raven in the children’s game show.)

“I think a lot of actors work in the care sector when they are not acting,” she says in a voice that’s quite determined to convince. “And I think acting can be about giving over something of yourself.”

She adds, laughing; “You’re not buying this argument, are you?” Not really. “Okay, well, all I can say is I love performing. But honestly, if I weren’t doing this I’d be nursing right now.”

A Walk In The Park,Oran Mor, Glasgow, until Saturday.