Alyson Orr has spent a huge part of her working life playing three very different roles, as an actor, singer and theatre producer. 

The triple-option career plan has certainly helped to make sure she’s never unemployed. But often, Renfrewshire-born Orr would be working on different jobs simultaneously. 

And it could be a demanding, sometimes frantic and mildly schizophrenic way of going about the business of life. 

Now, however, Orr, who once starred as Rikki Fulton’s wife Kate in Rikki and Me, is taking on just one role at a time. “As I’m getting older, I don’t need to do so much, I don’t feel that pressure,” she says, smiling. “But there’s also the feeling that I just can’t do all three things. It’s now about doing things in chunks that I can handle.” She laughs “I think what you do when you’re younger is put pressure on yourself to get a result.” She offers a mock sigh “Oh, to have had the knowledge and wisdom you have now.”  

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Over the years, Orr has toured the world as part of the singing trio The Swingcats, acted in a range of theatre production at Glasgow’s Pavilion Theatre and produced shows for the likes of Alex Norton, Jonathan Watson and Philip Differ and Paul Riley. 

Right now, the “chunk” she is focused on is appearing as a performer in Sunshine on Leith, the massively successful musical featuring a soundtrack of Proclaimers music

The story by Stephen Greenhorn tells of two squaddies, Davy and Ally, returning from the Iraq war to their home in Leith. 

It’s about lost loves, holding together relationships and community, with a searing backdrop of NHS cuts and nods to gentrification. 

Orr plays Jean, the mother of Davy (Robbie Scott) and Liz (Fiona Wood).  “Jean keeps the family together,” she explains. “She’s a nice person, the glue in the family. And it’s a really good role.”

Alyson Orr however may now separate out her work, but she’s entirely happy not to have one particular job. “Where I am lucky is that I’ve enjoyed the whole three areas of work. I really like producing, acting and singing. In fact, I was talking to my partner recently when he mentioned I didn’t have a hobby.” 

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She laughs. “He was sort of hoping I would take up golf, but that isn’t going to happen any time soon. What I do know is that if I didn’t work in the areas I do, they would be my hobby.”

Back in 1987, Alyson Orr, who learned to play flute and saxophone at school in Erskine, sang in a pizza restaurant with her piano-playing best friend, the late Stuart Thomas. 

Thomas determined to become a writer, while Orr fancied acting. 

The result was the cult comedy play Salon Janette. But now Orr has added another string to her bow as a writer. 

It began when she encouraged her brother Jim to write a play.  

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“Jim was an accountant who had never written anything before, so I helped him to structure his first play and working with him was really good.” The result was Bend It Like Brattbakk. And now the follow-up, Bend It Like Bertie, which she also produces, will play at the Pavilion Theatre in the New Year. 

But Orr has written her own musical play, The Coven. “I’ve been writing a lot, and now I’ve written a musical about witchcraft,” she says with audible pride in her voice. 

“It tells the story of Macbeth’s three witches, or rather what happens to the three characters after the event. I think the subject has depth because it’s really about the witch trials and how women were treated at the time.”

The Coven will feature electronic dance music. “I wrote the music for it, and someone suggested it goes with a dance music vibe, which should appeal to a younger audience. I’m really excited at the result. You look around at musicals such as Six and dream that’s the sort of success you might have.” 

Meantime, there’s the Sunshine role to concentrate on. Orr has excitement in her voice when she reveals that her performance has allowed her to realise a dream. 

“I get to sing Sunshine on Leith at the end,” she says. “It’s always been my favourite Proclaimers song and to sing it on stage is incredible.”

But when she speaks of her personal  life, and her 92-year-old mother in particular, there’s a sense that even the Sunshine experience is eclipsed by a monthly performance she gives to just a dozen or so elderly people. 

“My mum has dementia and is in a flat in an assisted living place,” she explains, “and I go in and sing a few songs in the day room. It’s great for me to be able to do that for them and I just love it.”

Sunshine on Leith, Pitlochry Festival Theatre, November 17-December 23 

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