This year’s Fife Comedy Festival has a special privilege.
It’ll be the ‘come back’ stage for one of Scotland’s best-known stars of stage and TV.
Dorothy Paul, veteran of live theatre and warmly recapturing the music hall-style era of comedy, has been lured out of retirement to play at Rothes Halls, Glenrothes this weekend.
It’s a one-woman show – almost – for the veteran singer, actress and monologuist, will be accompanied by fellow actor and musician Dave Anderson, still remembered for his turn as bank manager McLelland in 1980s Scottish sitcom ‘City Lights’.
Dorothy (78) decided last year to take a step back from live performing, as doing a “full, big show” over a couple of hours, and writing the material, had become quite difficult.
But she’s back this Friday in ‘An Evening With...’ format, in which she’ll be talking about her early life and career, relating funny stories, singing, and taking questions from the audience in the 90-minute show.
“It’ll be the whole spectrum of life – the ups and downs and the people I have met,” she said.
And Dorothy has a firm philosophy about real life inspiring humour.
“That’s what comedy really is – tragedy with hindsight.”
Originally from Dennistoun in Glasgow’s east end, Dorothy began her career as a soprano singer.
She moved into variety performing and also did comedy, joining ‘The One O’Clock Gang’, STV’s popular lunchtime entertainment show in the late 1950s.
She had a gift for comedy but not all comedians liked other performers getting laughs – especially if they were female.
“I kind of broke the mould, doing one-woman shows with music and variety,” she said.
Dorothy was offered comedy roles in plays and did a lot of dramas.
“There were marvellous plays but I wasn’t doing any good ones,” she recalled. “I was doing plays that seemed to depress folk.”
Her small-screen credits included ‘Sutherland’s Law’ and the mid-1970s Scottish soap opera ‘Garnock Way’, as well as a Play for Today version of William McIlvanney’s ‘A Gift From Nessus’, ‘The Mad Death’, ‘Strangers’, ‘Bookie’, ‘Taggart’, and more.
Dorothy was turned down for a job in, of all places, Kirkcaldy – but that allowed a chance to play in ‘The Steamie’, Tony Roper’s comedy-drama set in a 1950s public washhouse, where a number of Glasgow women discuss life while washing their clothes.
A television version was famously screened on Hogmanay 1988.
Dorothy helped develop her character of Magrit, and the show was a tremendous success.
“The stage show was amazing – thank goodness for it,” recalled Dorothy.
“The Steamie was offered to two or three different theatre companies and they turned it down – they all thought it would never work.”
Meantime, Dorothy is looking forward to playing in her favourite medium – “live stage is the best” – and looking forward to performing in Fife.
“It’s a wee place all of its own, and the people are lovely,” she said.
An Evening with Dorothy Paul is at Rothes Halls on Friday, April 1.