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evening news 16 jan 2002

George, the boy done good

The young Scottish star of the 1980s musical ‘Taboo’ is more than just a celebrity lookalike, writes Kate Copstick

EWAN McGregor and Boy George have a long lost love-child - a son - and his name is Euan Morton. At least that’s what he looks like. Fine-boned and almost girlishly gorgeous under a newly peroxided crop ("three applications it took ... it burns, you know!"), he is battling with a tsunami of press attention, pre-opening night nerves and having to wear the kind of make-up that makes Joan Collins look "au naturel". You know already, I am sure, that Morton is about to make his West End debut playing Boy George in the 1980s extravaganza Taboo. You surely must have heard it from his mum, who, he says, has not only told everyone in the country, but sent most people videos of him singing a number from the show on GMTV. She is a very excited woman.
Compared with his mum, Morton himself is almost disinterested in his big break. His mum was a huge Boy George and Culture Club fan. Morton wasn’t. But then when George was first a Karma Chameleon, Morton was only five.
He always wanted to act. So much that at the age of 16 he left home for London, making him undoubtedly the best thing to come out of Bo’ness since they built the road to Glasgow. And now, eight years on, he still loves to act. He reminds me that I have seen him before, in a brilliant London production of a play called The Silent Treatment. Playing a young boy, victim of a father’s continuing abuse, he did the bravest thing an actor in this kind of role can possibly do. He allowed himself to be almost wholly unsympathetic. He was so real, his anger and pain so tangible, that at times watching him felt genuinely voyeuristic.

Morton is no lookalike casting - despite the fact that no-one who passed our table failed to stop and comment on his resemblance to Boy George. He deplores type casting and the kind of performers it produces (although we make an honourable exception for Sir Sean "I thought I’d play this one Scottish" Connery). Morton swigs Coke and launches into an improvised scene featuring the great expatriate patriot revealing his intentions to play a Pakistani statesman in a Scottish accent.
Morton himself is pretty patriotic and would love to return to Scotland to work. He has, he says, "deluged" the Citizens’ Theatre with "geezajob" letters to no avail. The only acting jobs he has had in Scotland have been telly jobs like Taggart … cast in London. Maybe this break, he says, will make him more attractive in Scotland.
He has had coaching to help mould his Bo’ness accent into George’s music business hybrid tones, but the performance is, he says, very much his. The show, he is at great pains to point out, is not strictly the Boy George story but a love story between two young kids, Billy and Kim, neither of whom have any basis in reality at all. A new romance among the New Romantics, as it were.
The love story is set in that slice of time decorated with the sugar sprinkles and fondant icing that were Boy George, Steve Strange, Leigh Bowery, Philip Sallon and the denizens of the club culture they created. All of these 1980s icons - with the exception of Bowery - are still around and more than interested in the show. And all are happy with their dramatic doppelgängers.
Still, Morton is "bricking it" as he smilingly puts it. "I keep getting notes today like "project, Euan, project!" and I’m thinking, "I can’t speak any louder than this - I’m s****ing myself!" But he likes the terror. "It’s the pleasure/pain thing," he says, with a suggestive widening of smoky shadowed eyelids. (He hasn’t quite got it together with the make-up thing yet and has his done for him. Mark McGee, who plays Marilyn, he says admiringly, can do his own in 15 minutes.)
Scots are no good at coming from in front. We tend to do better overcoming insuperable odds. And the odds are looking good on this one. The show is selling out fast and word of mouth is better than good. Plus Morton himself is the subject of a half-hour arts documentary by the BBC to be broadcast on 20 January, before the opening night. He worries that all the positive pre-publicity will have a "Harry Potter effect". He says he remembers being disappointed by a movie that couldn’t possibly live up to all its hype and raised expectations.
Having said that, he raises a few expectations about the rest of the cast, the production team and the director himself. Matt Lucas as Bowery is "extraordinary", Luke Evans as Billy "special" and Gemma Craven "amazing". I ask him, before he has to get back into lippie and Lurex, what three wishes I could grant him were I his Fairy Godmother. He says that he would want to know that his rent and bills would always be paid, to have a smaller nose ("I hate my nose") and a bigger dick ("doesn’t everyone?"). How can the Citizens’ Theatre have ignored a boy like this for so long?
Taboo is currently in preview at the Venue, Leicester Square, London. The show opens on 29 January. Tel: 0870-899 3335.


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