Starting off in youth theatre in Edinburgh, Ashleigh Gray has since gone on to wow audiences in London but has now returned to Scotland to appear as Elphaba, the lead role in the hit musical Wicked at Edinburgh Playhouse. We caught up with this talented local lass on a break between shows to find out what her favourite things about Edinburgh are.
Can you tell us about yourself and how you got into acting?
I was born in Fife and moved to Newtongrange, just south of Edinburgh, when I was 5 years old. I guess I've always been into acting but my first experience of it was when I was 9 and I attended a summer school run by Fay Lenore at Edinburgh Dance Academy. We did a week's long intensive workshop on the Musical The Boyfriend, putting on a show for parents at the end of it. It was then, I caught the bug for performing!
When you hear the words ‘This Is Edinburgh’, the first thing that springs to mind is?
That skyline. When travelling into the City Centre from Midlothian, the one thing that always strikes me is the beautiful view you get. Around the Gilmerton area, you can clearly see Arthur's Seat in the distance - and if you follow the rooftops along to the left, you see the Castle, sitting high and proud. It's particularly beautiful at night when the castle is lit up. There are so many beautiful views in the city itself. Arthur's Seat is my favourite place in Edinburgh, the view from the top is amazing on a clear day - you can even see over the Forth to Fife. Also, the view down from the top of the Balmoral, Princes Street, the Gardens and the Castle is spectacular.
What makes you particularly proud to come from the city?
It's such a beautiful city, both to look at and to be in. When I moved to London fourteen years ago, I really missed walking along street and having people acknowledge you. London, in particular, is a very heads down, fast moving kind of place whereas Edinburgh is a much more social environment, particularly during The Festival. I'm always very proud to be from Edinburgh when August comes around. Many of my actor friends who bring shows to the Fringe always fall in love with the city - it always makes me proud to call it my home.
Edinburgh looks especially beautiful when...
Christmas comes around. At this time of the year, the City looks so beautiful with all its twinkling lights. Princes Street gardens really transforms into a Winter Wonderland that you can't help but fall in love with.
A perfect day in Edinburgh starts with...
A drive to Dunsapie Loch in Holyrood Park and a nice walk to the summit of Arthur's Seat, with a picnic to sit and marvel at the beautiful views and all that Edinburgh has to offer.
Edinburgh is packed with great venues, but a personal favourite is...
The Edinburgh Playhouse. I feel so lucky and honoured to finally be playing at this amazing venue that holds so many memories for me. I was a regular visitor to the theatre as an audience member when I was growing up. Billed as 'Scotland's Broadway', it really does bring some of the biggest and best pieces of live theatre and music to the city. I feel so lucky to be leading the cast of Wicked here at this iconic venue.
What is one of Edinburgh’s best kept secrets/ hidden gems that you would recommend to a new visitor?
I always recommend people to go and see the Real Mary King's Close. The amazing secret 17th century street hidden deep beneath the Royal Mile. The Royal Mile itself is full of gems, from The Palace of Holyroodhouse up to the Castle via some lovely little coffee shops, the Museum of Childhood and the amazing Witchery restaurant. Edinburgh has something for everyone.