Martin Quinn, who has black hair, and wearing a blue t-shirt, is held up by other cast members.
Credit: Eoin Carey

Martin Quinn: ‘I’m much more confident now than I ever thought I’d be at this stage’

By Micaela Levesque

Micaela chats to the Orphans cast member about his Scottish roots, performing on stage with legends and being part of a brilliantly technical show.

The National Theatre of Scotland’s musical adaptation of the 1998 film Orphans is set to open next month across Scotland. As fans of the cult classic film can attest, the story has a particularly Glaswegian spin. With original music, exciting technical theatre feats, and an incredible ensemble of Scottish actors, this performance is one Glasgow theatre fans will not want to miss. Cast member Martin Quinn took the time to speak with The Glasgow Guardian about the rehearsal process for the show and his experiences returning to the National Theatre of Scotland stage.

The Glasgow Guardian: Are you from Glasgow as well, then? 

Martin Quinn: So, I’m actually from just outside of Glasgow, Paisley, which is nine minutes on the train into central. So as close as you can get to Glasgow. I mean, my mum’s from Pollok and my grandparents from the Gorbals on her side. I’ve got Glasgow roots you could say.

GG: Could you tell me a bit about your specific role in the show? It says that you’re playing Seamus. 

MQ: Yes that is right. I mean, basically, I’m playing any kind of wee bam that chips in at any point. Seamus is quite the ned. And then at the start, I chip in neddy roles and then I play a priest towards the end. So it’s pushing my versatility throughout it. So yeah, I’ve got a couple of scenes as Seamus, a couple of scenes as this priest, and a bit scene in there. And then there’s a lot of singing and dancing throughout it so as you can imagine we’re kept quite busy between costume changes whenever we’re offstage and jumping about whenever we’re on. 

GG: The clips of the rehearsal process seem fascinating. What has the rehearsal process been like? 

MQ: I mean, the thing is, I’ve worked with the movement director Vicki Manderson before. We did a play for National Theatre Scotland back in like 2013/2014, we did Let the Right One In, and so I’ve worked with her before and her way of collaborating whilst making—as we go along— making the movement pieces and the dances together. Which I think it’s the best way of doing it because you just feel more engaged. The fact that some of your moves got put in, it’s just feeding the actor’s egos along the way. But also it’s just such a nice way of collaborating and making. So there’s a lot of that. There’s a lot of singing. We’ve got Tommy Reilly and Roddy Hart [Music and Lyrics], they’re actually nipping in and out of the room sometimes to check in on us. I’ve worked with them before. There was this film I did just before Covid called Our Ladies and they did the music on that. So I’ve worked with them before. They’re great fun. They’re all for you bringing character into the songs that they write. It’s exciting and it’s good because you’re proper working with each department at the top of their game. Everyone’s pulling their weight and everyone’s amazing. It’s really exciting— and I’m not saying that because I’m paid to say that— it’s a really exciting room to be in. 

GG: It looks like there is such a strong focus on ensemble from the things that I’ve seen. I’ve seen the clips of Cora Bissett [Director] speaking and she puts a big emphasis on the community of it as well which is really interesting to hear you lift up from the process in the room. 

MQ: Yeah she’s brilliant. And she’s just such a kind soul anyway. She definitely fosters and facilitates that kind of ensemble work which is so important. Apart from anything else, it makes you feel less nervous because you realise you’re a part of a team and it’s not all on you. It’s important for the actors, even selfishly, to kind of take the weight off of themselves a little bit. It helps to be kind of selfless in a way and work as a team—to realise it’s not just you and your bit. She definitely from the get-go makes everyone in the room feel important no matter how many lines you’ve got. I’m not in this play the most but, you know, you wouldn’t know that by the time of day that Cora gives you. 

GG: What have been some of the challenges with this collaborative work? 

MQ: You see, I’m good with movement but I’m not necessarily good at dancing. I mean, I’m not musical theatre trained. You know, I did do Oor Wullie the musical but I mean, I was Wullie in that and so I didn’t have to do a lot of the dancing in it. I was just singing and jumping about. Whereas I’m now actually performing alongside girls who have come out of musical theatre training and who can pick up the dances so quickly. I’m standing next to them, panicking and asking, “can I be put to the back?”. But the thing is, it’s worked out because it’s such a good ensemble piece and ensemble team, they have taken me under their wing in a way and helped me with the dance moves. I’m much more confident now than I ever thought I’d be at this stage. I was thinking it’d be up until the night before that I’d be sweating, not sleeping, because of these dance moves. So that’s been my main challenge, but it’s not been as bad as I thought it’d be. 

GG: How do you feel that all of this collaboration comes through in the tone of the story? What would audiences expect to see? 

MQ: The thing is, it’s trying to reflect Glasgow in quite an honest way. There are all these wee characters that are going to pop up that you know, you’ve seen them before when you’ve had a night out in Glasgow. And so, by strengthening the ensemble, that’s what you’ve done. You’ve made every actor as important as the next and therefore you’re pulling out these different shades of Glasgow through different characters. They’re all unique and different and yet, all part of the one team. All part of Glasgow. 

GG: Cora Bissett has also spoken about why she chose to share this story right now. For you personally, why do you think this story is important to do right now in Scotland? 

MQ: The story is about grief. It’s about the four main characters getting over the loss of their mother and how they, kind of, spiral through that. I mean, we’ve just come out of— I keep seeing these phrases online of people saying there’s kind of global trauma, do you know what I mean— we’ve all gone through something. It’s about how you deal with that trauma that matters. We’ve all known of people that have died in the past couple of years as well, so there’s an even more direct link. But also, if you’re going through something you really can spiral and I think that’s what happens with some of the characters in this. So I think it is really relevant because of that. Going through trauma and how you deal with it. I think that’s relevant at any time, but the past two years have been awful for most people. 

GG: And as a closing question, why should people come to see the show?

MQ: AW! It’s so— like, the thing is— everyone is at the top of their game so you’re going to get theatre that is strong in every area. You’ve got musicians at the top of their game, Tommy Reilly and Roddy Hart, you’ve got great Scottish actors that are rising stars. The technical team are amazing. The lights and the sound and the set— the set!– I can’t even tell you how cool it is. It’s like watching an art piece but an art piece that is reflective or representative of Glasgow. We don’t really get to see that very often, you know what I mean? The West End musicals, they’re never set in Gorbals. I think it’s worth coming to see it. You’ll see the tenements that you walk past every day. You’ll see some of the rough and ready characters that you don’t see on the telly. So that’s why I think you should come to see this. You’re not seeing it on the telly. You’re not seeing it on the West End. You’re seeing it here and now. I think it’s gonna be really great.

Orphans embarks on its Scottish tour from Friday 1 April to Saturday 30 April, stopping at Glasgow’s SEC Armadillo on the 6th, 7th and 8th.


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