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Article by Amanda Hooton reproduced from The Scotsman WeekEnd : 15 March 1997

Shirley Henderson - Ferocious fairy

Shirely Henderson

hirley Henderson looks and sounds about 17, which is why it's slightly disconcerting to discover that she's actually 31. She comes from Dunfermline, which is also unexpected, and "lots of other places" that all sound equally unpromising for a tiny, fragile-looking little girl who liked drama club.

To this day, Henderson remains uncertain how she ended up in acting. "I don't remember being passionate about it as a kid," she reflects, "but maybe I was. I did drama club after school, and I really enjoyed singing - so I suppose I must have been interested. But I didn't have any idea about how to get into it professionally. In a small village [Kincardine], you're not geared to drama school and things like that."

Appropriately enough, it has been just such a small village that has played host to Henderson's increasing fame. The west coast hamlet of Plockton is the setting for BBC1's popular drama series Hamish Macbeth, in which Henderson plays Isobel Sutherland, the dark-haired journalist whose frequent run-ins with the only other sane member of the tiny community, Hamish Macbeth (Robert Carlyle), took a romantic turn at the end of the last series.

"Isobel takes life very seriously," reflects Henderson, "too seriously, at times. I think that's her problem. She's very young, although she's grown up tremendously, which she was needing to do." She laughs. "I mean, there was no way she was going to get Hamish before - he was miles ahead of her."

Henderson's role in Hamish Macbeth marks the most recent move in a career that took root after a one-year drama course at Kirkcaldy Technical College - "it was the only thing my teachers could think of" - and three years in London at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Since then, she has always juggled television and theatre.

Live theatre, she explains, is "obviously more nerve-racking. But people will take more risks in theatre, on TV it's much harder to play someone other than yourself. People do of course, but in general you sound pretty much like yourself, you look like yourself. There's more freedom in theatre."

In 1995, Henderson's role in Rona Munro's The Maidenstone at Hampstead Theatre, London, earned her critical acclaim for her "fairy-like ferocity", but in future, she says, she'd like to do more on-screen work. "I'm not at the stage yet where I'm inundated with things and I can just pick and choose. I still have to go and audition and try my best at jobs.

"But there's a kind of wild atmosphere up here at the moment, so I'm just going with the flow. I'm not one of these people who ultimately wants to direct big movies or something. I don't really know what the next thing will be."

For the next few weeks, at least, it involves a skinny policeman and a small, inscrutable dog.

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Last Update: 14 April, 1997