Born: November 18, 1961;

Died: August 5, 2022.

ROSS Stenhouse, who has died aged 60, was an actor and writer of tremendous heart, who lit up Scotland’s stages from his early years as a key member of the original Arches Theatre Company, as well as with Hopscotch Theatre, the children’s company he co-founded in 1988 with Grant Smeaton.

With Stenhouse writing original scripts and Smeaton the songs to go with them, the company toured schools in and around Glasgow, and is still going strong today. Regarded as the life and soul of the company, Stenhouse’s work on and off stage had an outrageous comic glee possessed with a depth that could see his tone switch to pathos in an instant.

Ross Stenhouse was born in Glasgow, the elder of two sons to Sheena (nee Clarke Campbell), a comptometrist, and Alexander Stenhouse, an accountant, and grew up in Cardonald and Crookston.

He attended Cardonald Primary School and Penilee Secondary School, where he played guitar and bass with bands such as Fuselage. It was at Penilee that he developed his love for theatre, making his stage debut in a school production of South Pacific. It was at Penilee, too, that he met Smeaton.

As teenagers, the pair would sit in each other’s bedrooms, working their way through the David Bowie songbook en route to becoming collaborators on numerous theatrical adventures spanning several decades.

Stenhouse studied zoology at the University of Glasgow, and while sharing a flat with Smeaton and others became involved with Glasgow Arts Centre, based in a former school on Washington Street. Under director Maggie Kinloch, the centre provided a home for maverick performers like Stenhouse, similar to the way The Arches would.

With contemporaries including Robert Carlyle and Blythe Duff, Stenhouse appeared in plays by Ionesco, and a staging of Carson McCullers'z novel, The Ballad of the Sad Café.

To get their Equity cards, Stenhouse and Smeaton formed Pigfoot, a cabaret double act named after a Bessie Smith song, performing at music bars such as the Rock Garden and Fixx. Pigfoot became the basis of The Kit Kat Club, with Stenhouse and Smeaton joined by Kirsty Miller and MarieClaire McGuinness for a monthly Thursday night residency in Blackfriars basement bar, where Stenhouse began performing his own sketches and poems.

In 1990, Stenhouse and Smeaton were recruited by Andy Arnold to be part of a rough-and-ready ensemble presenting short promenade shows throughout the then City of Culture’s Glasgow’s Glasgow exhibition under Central Station in what would soon become The Arches.

Once Arnold got the keys to the building full-time, Stenhouse became a key member of the company, appearing alongside Smeaton, Raymond Burke and Lesley Davidson in its first shows, the Scottish poetry compendium, Noise and Smoky Breath, and David Mamet’s play, Sexual Perversity in Chicago.

Over the next 18 years, Stenhouse went on to appear in numerous Arches productions. He was a camp Red Queen in Alice Through The Looking Glass; a troubled Aston in Pinter’s The Caretaker, and took roles in plays by Brendan Behan, Dylan Thomas, and Sam Shepard.

He appeared in farces by Joe Orton and Dario Fo, and even accidentally gave Arnold a bloody nose during a dress rehearsal for Accidental Death of an Anarchist. The latter was with comedian Craig Ferguson, with whom Stenhouse would appear on TV in The Ferguson Theory (1994). Stenhouse also appeared in several episodes of Rab C. Nesbitt (1994-1997).

When Arnold moved to the Tron, Stenhouse acted in productions of Tennessee Williams’s Suddenly Last Summer, and Williams’ heartbreaking two-hander, Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen.

He also played Graham, the repressed middle-aged son of a woman having a second wind in A Chip in the Sugar, one of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads collection of monologues.

Stenhouse also worked extensively with Scottish Opera over twenty-five years. Working closely with Jane Davidson, he penned numerous new works for the company’s Outreach and Education department with composers Karen MacIver and Alan Penman. This included the cross-border Irish community opera, Cliona’s Wave (1998), and The Turn of the Tide (2000), a vast project that brought together 1,100 children from North Ayrshire and Helsinki to celebrate Scotland and Finland’s shared maritime history and folklore.

Aberich’s Curse was a child-friendly version of part of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, and The Last Aliens was commissioned for COP26, the international conference on climate change, held in Glasgow last year. A Tale of Tam, Stenhouse’s version of Robert Burns’s epic, Tam o' Shanter, played over twenty years to young audiences across the world.

What turned out to be Stenhouse’s final role was a recorded reading of Sir Walter Scott’s diaries that formed part of the soundtrack for a Scottish Opera community project in the Scottish Borders. The recording preserves Stenhouse’s evocative delivery, with all the charm, warmth and sense of fun that defined him.

As Andy Arnold wrote, “When people ask me what makes a good actor it’s always Ross’s face that comes into my head. It’s not the extrovert, loud, or theatrical types who are the best actors. It is more likely the unassuming, softly-spoken, and sensitive types who you would never imagine were actors. Ross, for me, was the perfect example of an actor who left his own personality in the dressing room and inhabited on stage the character he was playing with total conviction and masterful subtlety.”

Stenhouse is survived by his parents, Alexander and Sheena, his brother Iain, sister-in-law Deborah, niece Ada and an extended family.