DOWN near Glasgow Cross where Edwin Morgan’s grey clouds are piling up once more, a young woman’s fervour is bringing sunshine. When she happens by I’m sharing cigarettes and speculation with David Hayman about the SNP leadership contest and the deeds of Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou. We’re sitting in the terrace of the Tron Theatre and she was about to walk past us.

Then she hesitates and decides that valour is the better part of discretion. “I just wanted to tell you that you were brilliant last night,” she says. “That whole performance blew me away. One minute I was laughing; the next I was gasping. I was looking round that audience and some of them didn’t know where to put themselves either.”

Hayman’s gnarly features crease with delight. He lives for this audience engagement. It soon becomes clear his young admirer wants to work through some of the emotions engulfing her. “Was I right to feel sympathy for Eric at the end,” she asks.

READ MORE: Sighthill bridge: A Glasgow regeneration that will make a difference

The show is David Ireland’s Cyprus Avenue, and it’s nearing the end of its three-week, sell-out run at the Tron. Hayman is perfectly cast as Eric, the Protestant Ulsterman who’s having a prolonged psychotic crisis triggered by the birth of his grand-daughter whom he believes to be the reincarnation of Gerry Adams.

As he reflects on the loyalism which has reinforced him and provided him with his entire sense of self you find yourself, by turn cheering for him; reviling him and weeping for him and his.

I was in that audience too. For about two minutes, we’re setting ourselves up for a scabrous, but no-jeopardy comedy. And then, without warning, we’re getting chibbed in the ribs. It’s a precursor to a performance which rattles our senses.

My first encounter with live theatre happened in 1978 when an enlightened English teacher took her entire class to see a production of Macbeth at The Citizens. A bare-chested Hayman played Lady Macbeth and a group of Catholic Glaswegian schoolchildren are left unscrambling their senses for days after.

Two years later, we’re all being mesmerised by Hayman crucifying people as Jimmy Boyle in A Sense of Freedom. “Haw; we saw him in that mad play two years ago,” we’re telling each other.

HeraldScotland: David Hayman at the Citizens panto in 1970 playing Wishy WashyDavid Hayman at the Citizens panto in 1970 playing Wishy Washy (Image: free)

At 75, Hayman isn’t the butcher’s dog; he’s the butcher’s dog’s personal trainer. The night before, he’s drinking Guinness and now he’s smoking roll-ups. Hell, the bastard is never off-stage in a 90-minute production in the midst of which he must deliver a 10-minute, nine-page monologue.

“I didn’t think I’d still be alive at 75, let alone doing a 20-date; highly physical, production,” he says. “But I love the physical and psychological demands of live theatre, although when I played Hamlet at the Citz in 1970 or 71, I was able to learn the lines in four days.

"More than 40 years later I’m playing King Lear, a similar size of part, and it took me 10 weeks. The grey matter just doesn’t work as well. It terrifies me every night, but it still excites me.”

I’m thinking that if I can still remember an average-sized round of drinks at 75 I’ll be grateful.

“I think Cyprus Avenue is one of this century’s best and most important plays. It’s a major challenge and I love that at 75 I’m still being challenged and I still want to be challenged at 85.

“You can come and see Cyprus Avenue 100 times and each performance will be slightly – maybe radically – different because of your presence and our performances can reflect the personality of the audience that particular evening.”

READ MORE: 'Kate Forbes shows Christians are expected to hide their beliefs'

Hayman will permit himself two weeks of rest following the end of this run. And then he’s off to Malawi to check up on the progress of his Spirit Aid foundation which he set up in 2001. It’s core aim is to alleviate the suffering of children and young people in marginalised and war-torn communities across the world. It currently operates in Palestine, Afghanistan and Malawi and also has a Scottish operation.

“I remember meeting 10 local community chiefs in Malawi in 2008 and discussing with them how can we improve young lives.

“Feed our high school kids,” they told me. “Like most African countries, education is not compulsory and has to be paid for and in a barter economy it’s very difficult to meet those costs.

“I’m sometimes asked why we’re helping kids in Afghanistan when there are kids in Partick needing help. And maybe they’re right on one level. But I’ve always been an internationalist. And since we started our feeding programme in Malawi, 40 graduates have become nurses and 40 are primary school teachers. We’ve got accountants and government officers. So each pound is going a long way by helping produce skilled workers who can bring back revenue into these poor villages.

“It’s incumbent on all of us to do what we can to make the world better and I probably waited too long. I wish I’d done it earlier.”

I tell him of a conversation prior to our interview. “David Hayman, eh,” my friend had said. “I saw him popping up on a couple of Hollywood blockbusters. It kind of disappointed me. You just don’t expect to see someone like him in that shallow, confetti world. He just doesn’t belong there. He’s more like one of us. He’s real.”

“I think he meant it as a compliment,” says I.

“I’m taking it as a compliment,” says Hayman. “After the Jimmy Boyle role, my agent was getting all sorts of offers to play alongside bigger stars than me in tinsel-town but Hollywood is a one-horse saloon. It’s very shallow and has never once appealed to me.”

HeraldScotland: David Hayman in the film Fisherman's FriendDavid Hayman in the film Fisherman's Friend

He acknowledges he could have had a more comfortable and much more affluent life if he’d pursued that route, but he’s never really been driven by the need to earn the big bucks. “I turned down Hamlet at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford upon Avon. I just thought that, after 10 years at the Citizens playing to my fellow Glaswegians in the Gorbals in my home town, why would I want to go and play Hamlet to an audience of Japanese and American tourists.”

Hayman, probably best known to TV audiences as Chief Supt Michael Walker in Lynda La Plante's long-running Trial & Retribution, is troubled about the elitism that pervades his trade and the ever-decreasing paucity of opportunities for Scottish acting and writing talent to make an impact.

“It can cost around £70-£100 simply to get an audition for drama school,” he says. “That deters pupils from working class districts.

“The Royal Conservatoire only takes a handful of Scots each year. A century ago, Glasgow had 40 theatres and 40 cinemas. Access to the visual arts was classless. Now, there are only three producing theatres in Glasgow, by which I mean places commissioning and staging new work.

“The Tron has just lost £130,000 of funding from the council. When it comes to culture that isn’t just for the elite why should there be such a choice of who survives and who doesn’t?

"Theatre in Scotland has always been very democratic. I was an associate director of the Royal Court Theatre in London for a few years and when I looked at some of our audiences they were 99% white and about 90% middle class.

“At the same time, I was running 7:84 here and the demographic completely changes: maybe 60% working class and a much greater ethnic mix. In England you’ve got the posh boys now appearing in soap operas and playing gritty working-class parts in dramas like Happy Valley.”

Right here, right now though, he’s sustained by the appreciation of his home town. To get to the Tron he gets the underground from Partick and then it’s a walk along Argyle Street. He tells me of his delight at being stopped twice by “wee Glasgow wummin”.

“One of them said, ‘excuse me, I just want to tell you, son, that I came to see your show the other night and you were absolutely amazing. I don’t know how you do it. Thank God for you. And you love Glasgow and you love Scotland, so God love you.

“And you think: ‘Wow: you went to the theatre to see me and you’re stopping me in the street’. That means so much more than anything else you can get in this industry. The knowledge that you made her night. And it made my day bumping into her.”