DARREN Brownlie doesn’t have too many problems relating to his latest stage character.

In Crocodile Rock, a new play by Andy McGregor, the Paisley-born actor plays a young man who has to come to terms with his sexuality, learn how to navigate others’ sexual boundaries - and decide how to announce himself to the world.

Darren, a Tron Theatre panto star for the past ten years, explains the monologue. “It’s about a boy called Stephen McPhail who grows up on an island on the West coast of Scotland and comes to realise he’s a bit different.

“It’s only when a new boy, Henry Thomas, moves to the island that Stephen thinks; ‘Oh God, it’s maybe that I fancy boys!’ And he has one night with Henry which doesn’t go so well. He tries to kiss Henry and Henry goes mental at him.

“Stephen then gets bullied at school and he has to drop out ‘for being a poof’.”

But then the Millport Music Festival changes Stephen’s life. A Brazilian Hammond organ player, Vincente Miguel, turns up and Stephen can’t quite believe what he sees. “Vincente is not a drag queen as such, he’s more a gender bender, someone before his time, a sort of Quentin Crisp character.

“Then, one night, Stephen gets really curious about him, sneaks into his changing room and tries on his make-up. Vincente catches him in the act but is totally understanding. ‘You don’t need to be scared of who you are’.”

Which is all very well for Vincente to say. But Stephen still can’t quite come to terms with the fact he is gay. And he has to tell his parents. “Not only that he is he gay but that he likes to entertain by doing female impersonations.” Darren adds; “It all goes dark and his dad asks him to leave. His dad, we learn, had assumed his son would follow in the tradition of taking over the family pub.”

Darren Brownlie, thankfully, didn’t face the same distress levels during his sexual discovery days. “I was incredibly lucky. I probably knew I was gay from the age of 15 or 16 although it did come as something of a surprise to my family because I’d always had a girlfriend from the age of 13, right through high school.

“But when I went to the Dance School of Scotland in Knightswood as a boarder I felt so comfortable coming out. Most of the boys were gay. Previously, I’d never seen anyone like me in Paisley.”

Darren’s moment of realisation was literally overpowering. “I remember going to this aerobics class and a boy in the year above me took off his vest. Well, I had to catch my breath. And that was the moment the penny dropped.”

Did he ever have his moment, like Stephen, when he misread the signs and endured an awkward moment? “I did. Twice,” he laughs. “When I was training in London and again when I worked on the ships (as a dancer) I kissed a guy. But he turned out to have a wife and kids.”

Yet, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t gay. “That’s right! he declares, grinning. “As we say, ‘spaghetti’s straight - until you boil it.’”

Darren, who once worked as a wedding dance choreographer, still had to tell his family of his sexual predilection. “I went over one Friday to tell my parents; ‘Mum, I have something to tell you.’ She then asked how much money I needed. When I revealed the real reason for the visit she was upset, not because I was gay but because she thought the world would be a harder place for me to live in. She mentioned I wouldn’t have the same sort of life as my identical twin brother, David. And then she announced she wouldn’t tell my dad.”

So the process had to be repeated. “My dad went quiet. It wasn’t that he was uncomfortable with me being gay, it was more like he was unsure of how to react around someone who is gay. He just didn’t know any gay people. He sat back and didn’t speak for an hour. During this time I remember Coronation Street being on and hearing the theme tune (mimics the camp brass playing).

“But it all worked out. I’ve got a great family and my brother’s attitude was simply ‘That’s smashing. Now what’s for dinner.’”

Darren, who also lectures at the Conservatoire adds, grinning; “Now I think me being gay is an asset. I’m the one sent out to get something for my mum’s birthday. They think I’ve been born with the shopping gene.”

Being gay in the West of Scotland these days isn’t hazardous. “Its very rate that I get any stick for being gay. There is a minority who don’t agree with what’s not ‘normal’ but I’ve never felt more comfortable and I believe Glasgow is a very accepting city.”

He adds; “If someone did once call me a poof I won’t hold it against them. There is plenty of room for everyone at the party.”

Brownlie, who once appeared in children’s TV alongside his twin brother, is excited to be appearing in his first monologue. He’s also excited about his panto future. After ten years at the Tron he’s set to move to the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh where he’ll be appearing in Goldilocks as Baby Bear.

“I’m a wee bit intimidated to be moving onto commercial theatre, but so, so excited at the same time.

Meantime, he’s wallowing in his chance to star in his own show.

“It’s a great story,” he says. “And I’m sure it will connect with a lot of people.”

Crocodile Rock, Oran Mor, Glasgow, until Saturday