My Week: Hamish McColl, Actor

The Telegraph, 22 October 2005

Hamish McColl talks to Helen Brown about preparing for "Ducktastic!"

Preparations for Ducktastic!, our new West End show about a struggling illusionist and his performing duck, entered their final stages with our choreographer, Michael Rooney - Mickey's son - arriving from the US to hoover us into shape.

My writing and performing partner Sean Foley is a very mobile character with dance ability. I am basically his rotund support doing the oom-pah, looking like a fat builder in a tutu.

Despite feeling as though I'd been run over by several large vehicles, I took my five-year-old son swimming and feared I might drown. In the afternoon we went to see the new Wallace and Gromit movie which was completely gorgeous - a lovely little window into a more perfect world. My day ended with a Thai massage: a woman walked up and down my spine. It felt like she still had her shoes on.

Still feeling creaky, I went to the theatre with the fixed grin of the professional. We were still working on what we call the "Mahabharata of technicals" - there's a lot in this show: lights, sounds, magical illusions and Indian runner ducks. They're very classy creatures: graceful, upright, yellow feet. Sean and I are a bit jealous because the ducks have the number one dressing room.

Preview day. I went alone for a sushi lunch and became catatonically hypnotised by all those plates going round on the little railway track. Back at the theatre, before the performance, people kept coming up to me saying, "Hamish, just enjoy it - just relax." I then went on with the rictus mask of the truly terrified and was pretty dreadful, I believe. My wife was good enough to tell me that I should try to "relax" just that tiny bit more.

Our director, Kenneth Branagh, decided we should cut some of our lines. It's true that the more material you take out, the more you let the audience in. Things went much better on stage this evening, but my bicycle broke on my way home.

I had to go to the osteopath because my left knee is falling slightly inwards and there's a danger of twisting it. Michael Rooney's eyes mist over in rehearsal as he dreams of more agile dancers. When my son saw me in the woman's outfit I have to wear, he said: "Daddy, that would be fantastic - if you put it on Sean."

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