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Theatre: NUDE INTENT; Jason Connery is back on track with Corrie babe Tracy.

Byline: Siobhan Synnot

Could 2003 be the year when Jason Connery finally emerges from the shadows?

He deserves the break. The last few years have been traumatic and professionally frustrating for him, with a difficult divorce and disappointing acting experiences. But having taken time out to sort his life, Jason, 40, has come back fighting.

"You do learn some lessons from bad times," says the handsome blond actor. "The things that don't kill you make you stronger - and I've been there."

Tackling controversial play The Blue Room should test that strength. The play is famous, or rather notorious, for its nudity and uncompromising portraits of modern relationships. And acting in Scotland invites comparisons with his father, movie legend Sean.

His dad, who has been filming in eastern Europe, has yet to see the play but his mother Diana Cilento has given it her seal of approval. The Blue Room centres on 10 linked sexual liaisons, with Jason and ex- Coronation Street star Tracy Shaw each playing five lonely hearts. Their difficulties finding love struck a chord with Jason and with audiences.

"People want to live up to their partners' expectations and when you're not their knight in shining armour they feel let down," he says. "People have these romantic fantasies about love and they are hard to live up to."

Jason admits the failure of his marriage has been a low point but he and ex-wife Mia Sara are keen to stay pals for the sake of their son Dashiell, five. Until recently he was on tour with his dad but he's now on his way back to Mia's home in Los Angeles. "This is the first time I've been away from him," says Jason.

His own parents split when Jason was 10 and their relationship remains so bitter Jason, their only son, was wed in a quiet ceremony with neither mother or father present. "They hate each other," he says, frankly. That bitterness has not soured Jason's relationship with his father, though. "I love my father, we talk and get on well. All that bothers me is people may think I endlessly bring up the subject of my dad in interviews. But I only talk about him if I'm asked to."

Since his early days at Perth Theatre, Jason's career has been subjected to intense scrutiny and the occasional innuendo that Sean has pulled strings for him. Under this kind of provocation even mild- mannered Jason decided to bite back. In a live TV interview, the host asked if his father pulled strings behind the scenes. "Yes, of course," he replied sarcastically. "He phones producers and says he'll pay them to hire his son."

"I've no regrets about saying that," says Jason. "I'm a person in my own right. I've done my own stuff. Sometimes I've been a load of old rubbish. I don't use my dad to get work. And I don't let people use me to get to dad."

It's ironic the only son of Sean Connery has grown up with a region-free English accent but that's down to his rootless upbringing, crossing continents to spend time with one or other of his parents. But unlike his father, Jason has a Scottish home, a bolthole in the Borders where he spent Christmas and New Year.

Gently spoken and often wryly funny, Jason is good company in his own right. Appearing nude in The Blue Room is a challenge, he admits, but the only time he was self- conscious was on the first day of rehearsals, when he and Tracy took their clothes off for the first time.

"It was in front of David Hare, who wrote the play, and our understudies, with about eight or nine other people looking on. But you have to get over it because if there's any sense of embarrassment the audience picks it up.

"There's been a lot of fuss about nudity in the play but when you're playing people who have just made love, it would be even more odd if they weren't naked,"he says. His cool response hasn't stopped other people getting overheated, however. On their opening night, Tracy's first nude scene was disrupted by a photographer determined to snap the naked Corrie star, until he was grabbed by the director and thrown out of the theatre.

Unlike Tracy, this is not Jason's first experience of being naked on stage - "but it is the first time I've done it intentionally," he laughs.

In the early days of his acting career, he was in The Three Musketeers at Bristol Old Vic, a role that involved a bed scene.

"They also gave me woolly knickers to wear underneath my trousers to keep me decent. But they were very hot to wear, so I'd put them on just before the scene. Of course, one night I forgot to."

As the crucial moment drew near, Jason decided he would get help from his leading lady.

"I whispered to her that I couldn't take my trousers off. She thought this was very funny. She thought it was even funnier to take my trousers off and carry them to a chair at the front of the stage. So at the end of the scene I was trapped in bed with no trousers."

Jason grabbed the bedsheet to save his blushes. Unfortunately as he moved down- stage, so did the bed - it was stapled in place. "I had to let go of the sheet and collect my trousers absolutely stark naked."

THE BLUE ROOM

Venue King's Theatre, 2 Leven Street, Edinburgh, 0131 529 6000

Opens Tuesday, April 22, 7.30 pounds 12.50 - pounds 18.50.

THEATRE HIGHLIGHTS

From the brutality of the Duchess of Malfi to Salman Rushdie's spectacular epic Midnight's Children, Siobhan Synnot takes a look at April's must-see shows

THE BREATHING HOUSE BY PETER ARNOTT

Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, April 26-May 17

Kenny Ireland's last production as artistic director is the eagerly-anticipated play by Peter Arnott. Set in Victorian Edinburgh, the Gothic mystery takes place at a time when houses were so full of refugees from the Highlands and Ireland that at night, you could hear buildings "breathe".

MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN

His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen, April 15-19

The Royal Shakespeare Company perform Salman Rushdie's prize-winning story of the magic, myth-making and mischief of modern India. The title refers to children of the subcontinent born at midnight on August 15, 1947 - when it became independent.

DUCHESS OF MALFI

King's Theatre, Edinburgh, April 1-5

A modern treatment of the bloody Jacobean shocker. Janet McTeer is the Duchess whose secret marriage to a social inferior sparks carnage. A Clockwork Orange- style scene where she is strapped into a chair and injected with drugs is especially intense.

MRS BROWN RIDES AGAIN

Glasgow Pavilion, April 15-May 11 (Except Mondays)

Brendan O'Carroll, Ireland's King of Comedy, drags up again for another one-man show about a fearsomely funny Dublin mammy. MATTHEW BOURNE'S NUTCRACKER

King's Theatre, Glasgow, April 29 - May 3

Witty version of a favourite ballet takes a sideswipe at the usual sugary interpretation. Dark, funny and wildly inventive. Music is still by Tchaikovsky - but now with a dash of Busby Berkeley.

CAMILLE

Theatre Royal, Glasgow, April 29-May 3

This Life's feisty lawyer Daniela Nardini as a tragic heroine from another era. This production has had an uncompromisingly gritty four-letter makeover that includes adult language and nudity.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 30, 2003
Words:1225
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