IT IS more than 20 years since James McAvoy – Drumchapel native, Hollywood A-lister and all-round star of stage and screen – performed in a Glasgow theatre.

While he might have a string of awardwinning performances and box office hits under his belt, the star of X-Men, His Dark Materials, Arthur Christmas and more is definitely feeling the nerves about playing to a home crowd.

Clydebank Post: Cyrano de Bergerac. James McAvoy (Cyrano de Bergerac). Credit - Marc Brenner

“He is excited - and terrified,” laughs Jamie Lloyd, director of Cyrano de Bergerac which opened at the Theatre Royal this week with McAvoy in the lead role.

“James has not been on stage in Glasgow since 1999. We were standing on the stage the other day – and it’s a BIG theatre - and he just looked at me and said, ‘oh my God, I really hope they like it….”

Clydebank Post: Cyrano de Bergerac. James McAvoy (Cyrano de Bergerac). Credit - Marc Brenner

Jamie adds: “Being back in Glasgow - it’s a big thing for him.”

In a coup for the city, Glasgow is one of only three venues (the others are in London and New York) to receive this much-lauded production, which first dazzled audiences in 2019.

“I’ve worked with James since 2009 and there’s just never really been an opportunity to come up before, because of his schedule – he is a very busy man,” says Jamie, with a laugh.

Clydebank Post: Cyrano de Bergerac. James McAvoy (Cyrano de Bergerac). Credit - Marc Brenner

“It’s really exciting to be here – not just because it’s James’s big homecoming, but because it’s very cool to be in Glasgow. I don’t know the city very well – but I’m relying on James to help me out, he can tell me where to visit and which pubs are good….”

Clydebank Post: Cyrano de Bergerac. James McAvoy (Cyrano de Bergerac). Credit - Marc Brenner

Cyrano is a poet-soldier, fierce with a pen and notorious in combat, who has everything except the woman he adores. Saddled with a big nose, Cyrano believes he is too ‘ugly’ to ever win Roxane’s (Evelyn Miller) love, so he agrees to help nice-but-dim Christian (Eben Figueiredo) win her heart with wordplay.

Clydebank Post:

Jamie, writer Martin Crimp and designer Soutra Gilmour have created a version of Edmond Rostand’s classic which dispenses with everything traditional productions savour - including THAT nose.

“Cyrano has been performed so many times, it comes with the baggage of all of those performances, and there is a perception of how it should be done – the flamboyant hats, the swashbuckling, the big prosthetic nose…” smiles Jamie.

“The starting point for me was – what is the bare minimum we need to tell this story?

“And if you clear away all that baggage, and concentrate on the heart of the story, it increases the connection between the actors on the stage and the audience in the auditorium. Theatre is about that connection and sometimes all that baggage just gets in the way.”

He adds: “What remains is even funnier, or more heartbeaking, in a way. The actors are mic'd up, so they can speak quite quietly at times, and you can hear a pin drop. You can see the audience lean in and really listen.

“And then at times it’s as raucous and loud as a rock gig or a big stand-up concert.”

By stripping back, adds Jamie, the emphasis returns to the words – Cyrano de Bergerac is a play all about the power of words, after all - and in this version, the worlds of rap, hip-hop and slam poetry are the catalyst.

“I find slam poetry really interesting – there’s this whole culture in which young people have found ways of saying the things that are important to them, of finding their voices,” says Jamie.

“There are people in the cast who are into rap and hip hop, who have written their own slam poetry so it feels very authentic. There are also Shakespeare nuts too, so it is diverse. The energy is dazzling and vibrant.”

Jamie’s love of performing began when he was a child, going to Saturday morning drama classes in his home town of Poole in Dorset.

“I didn’t grow up going to the National or the RSC – my mum was a cleaner, my dad was a truck driver, so going to theatre wasn’t something we did day to day,” he says.

“My mum ran a fancy dress shop and we lived in a tiny flat above it, so there was always an interesting parade of characters coming through.”

He grins: “It sounds like something out of a movie, but at night I’d sneak down and try on the pirate costumes and dress up as a zombie. When my cousins came over we’d put on zombie costumes and recreate the entire Michael Jackson Thriller video.”

Jamie studied drama at the Liverpool Institute of Fine Arts, before discovering a love of directing.

“Must have started when I was bossing my cousins about in those zombie costumes,” he smiles. “After drama school I was lucky – I worked on big musicals like Guys and Dolls and Anything Goes. It was amazing.”

READ MORE: When Tutti Frutti took over the Pavilion - and made a star of Robbie Coltrane

With his own eponymous company, Jamie has drawn new audiences to the theatre – he runs affordable ticket schemes, targeting young people and key workers who might not otherwise be able to attend.

He has worked with James McAvoy for 13 years.

“James is a really good guy – he leads the company with such kindness and generosity, and looks out for people,” says Jamie.

“He is always open to new ideas and projects, to taking risks - he is so fearless. I really believe he is the greatest actor of his generation.”

Cyrano de Bergerac is at the Theatre Royal until Saturday.