“I hadn’t done any shows in A Play, A Pie and A Pint in the 20 years it has been going, then three came along almost on the trot,” he says, with a grin.
“Other actors are probably hating my guts at the moment. But to do this play, by Douglas Maxwell, with my brother, who is my favourite actor of all time – it’s something I could not say no to.”
In The Sheriff of Kalamaki, the latest lunchtime offering at Oran Mor, Paul plays Dion, a “middle-aged raver” who has found his perfect job on the Greek isle of Zante, keeping an eye on troublesome Brits. When his brother Ally (played by Paul’s real brother Stephen) turns up looking for help, things take a very different turn.
“It’s about the myths we tell ourselves about who we really are,” says Paul. “I just love the buzz of being on stage. You can live another life, be someone different for a while.”
While it is not the first time the brothers have worked together, this one is a bit different, says Paul.
“I’m a bit deeper into my career,” he says. “I was a late starter – didn’t really get into it until I was in my 30s, but Stephen has been doing it since he was 18. Now, I feel like I’ve found my feet a bit more.
“And maybe just because of where we are at in our lives, maybe getting older, being more reflective….” He pauses. “I dunno. It feels a lot more emotionally charged for some reason,” he adds. “Douglas’s writing will do that to you.”
The McCole boys grew up in Castlemilk, where they joined the local youth theatre “for something to do,” says Paul.
“It was an escape, really, from other roads we could have gone down,” he explains. “I stopped, because I had a family and a full-time job while I was still quite young. But Stephen was always in no doubt that this was what he wanted to do.”
Paul worked on the railways for 10 years, watching his brother’s success in a string of high profile shows and movies (including The Acid House, My Name is Joe, River City and Band of Brothers, alongside Tom Hanks) with pride but also, he admits, with a “bit of a pang, a feeling I might have given something up I kind of loved.”
“So I went to college to study acting,” he says. “I did a few Taggarts, wee bits of theatre, not that much. Stephen and I did the comedy drama series High Times, which went really well, and things got a bit easier.”
He adds with a grin: “But afterwards, there was a lull, and I was thinking – where’s my Burnistoun? Where’s my Gary Tank Commander? Why’s it not happening to me?”
Then came Limmy’s Show, the dark, surreal comedy creation of Brian Limond.
“It was an amazing experience, a real eye-opener for me,” says Paul. “I do think he’s a genius. Suddenly I was getting recognised when I was out and about.”
Most recently, Paul appeared in Orphans, the National Theatre of Scotland’s musical re-telling of the Peter Mullen film.
“Even on that show, 10 years later, I had people saying they saw me on Limmy’s programme, and there was a real reverence, almost – which is incredible,” he says.
“I’ll always be thankful to Limmy for giving me that.”
The Sheriff of Kalamaki runs until Saturday (September 30) at Oran Mor.
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