Brian Beacom

SEAN Bigggerstaff is clearly excited to be appearing in the hugely anticipated Tron Theatre production of The Brothers Karamazov.

The one-time Harry Potter star is all set to take on the role of Ivan, the brother with the calm overview in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s classic tale set in 19th century Russia.

But Biggerstaff’s 34 year-old voice registers the fact the role’s arrival is a little bittersweet. The Tron theatre company is revisiting this piece in part tribute to the late acting star Alan Rickman, who played Ivan in 1981 for the same theatre group.

Rickman not only played a huge part in the Glaswegian’s acting success, he became a close friend in the process.

“It is a little odd,” says Biggerstaff of the situation he’s found himself in. “It’s not that I don’t want to talk about Alan but it is a bit . . . .”

His voice trails off but returns to acknowledge that following in his friend’s footsteps is certainly poignant.

“I was thirteen when I first worked with Alan and it was amazing to have someone like that in my corner,” he recalls. “Alan got me my first agent in London, and put in a good word for me with Harry Potter producer David Heyman.

“To this day I don’t know how decisive that was but I sure as hell know it didn’t hurt.”

Rickman’s involvement didn’t stop with the recommendation.

“I could talk to him when times were tough. Having someone as brilliant as Alan having believe in me was an incredible safety net against the worst situations.”

The serious tone lifts and we return to the story of the Karamazovs; a father leaves his sons to their fate but has to come to terms with reality when they later ask for what is due to them.

The result is murder, mystery, madness and redemption –set to a backdrop of a fast-changing Russia, heading rapidly in the direction of revolution.

Factor in a fair smattering of lust and love and you have a heck of a challenge for any actor?

“That’s true,” says Biggerstaff, smiling. But what is there about the play that is relevant today? “The aspects of love and death and the human condition,” he suggests with a knowing smile. “The big question of religion and science is also there. It’s an explicit debate that we’re having again.

“And it’s set in a time when new technologies were changing that world, and right now with social media there is a paradigm shift in the way we communicate.”

There is also comedy in this play, emerging from the Russian need to survive. “There is everything to be had in this play.” . But there’s little doubt when he walks on stage he’ll be thinking of Alan Rickman.

How does he cope with the loss of such a friend? “I don’t know yet,” he says in soft voice.

• The Brothers Karamazov, The Tron Theatre, Glasgow, October 12 – 28.