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Next up: I will be launching None of That: A Black Books Podcast

22 Dec 2010

Merry Christmas

I just wanted to post a quick blog to say Merry Christmas to all who read this blog. It has been a great year for me personally, having worked with some amazing people, from Accidental, Wireless Mystery, Devised and Fringe Benefits Theatre companies, and the various film projects I worked on.
I can't wait to work with those guys again in 2011, and see what new stuff they produce themselves.
Once again, Happy Christmas, try to get home, and have a wonderful new year.

14 Dec 2010

Fringe Benefits' intensive weekend

This past weekend has been set aside for some time for the Fringe Benefits annual intensive weekend. This is a chance to really get together as a company and strengthen relationships, as well as get valuable training time with the brilliant Peter Quigley.
It was held in the Mary Magdalene Hall, where we did a lot of rehearsing for Incident at Vichy, and where Fringe will be hosting all of their workshops after the new year.
Many of the cast of ...Vichy were there, as well as members of the group who weren't part of that production, including; Mickey Mason, Michael Burkes, Fra McCartney, Ciaran Moore, Gerald McCann, Denise Farrelly, Tom Dart, Bryan Marshall, Adrian Cooke, Doireann O'Brien, Gemma Duffy, Caroline Brennan, Denis McAlinden, Peggy O'Neill, Michael Burkes, Andy Gray, Sam Mahadeo, with Cathy McCullough administrating things.
It's surprising how beneficial such training can be, even the simple addition of being able to return to the exercises you were performing the very next day, as opposed to a whole week later.
There's one more workshop next weekend before the Christmas break, but as Peter pointed out, four hours may feel like too little in comparison to this weekend!

26 Nov 2010

Hectic Week: Film Nation Shorts, QU Players' Freshers' Festival and Cinemagic Workshops

This has been a hectic (read: brilliant) week for me. It started last Saturday with my involvement in the Film Nation Shorts workshop in Derry as part of the Foyle Film Festival. I was not one of the participants in the workshop, but it was to help new directors get to grips with working with actors for the first time. It also assisted myself and Christine McGowan (who was also acting in the class) get experience in front of camera.
The project was organised by Jacqui Wells, of 104 Films and it is part of a National Lottery Olympic Games 2012 outreach program, and involved Paul Christie on camera, and John Carlin directing.
The main exercise involved taking a scene from Paul Thomas Anderson's masterpiece Magnolia, and dissecting it for pace, camera work, and essentially bringing out the best in the actors.

Then throughout the week I helped Queen's University Players put on a couple of short plays for their Freshers Festival on Thursday. I was aware that I would not be able to attend the festival itself, so I took the opportunity to take the seat on the other side of the production. As assistant director, I helped Seamus O'Hara and Daisy Brindley put on plays that they wanted to showcase with intentions of bringing them to the stage in a greater capacity in the future.
Seamus' piece was a series of sketches, written by Seamus Collins, very firmly based on the mould of Chris Morris' oeuvre, a genre I love. It featured young actors David Heatley and Sarah McErlain
Anton Thompson- McCormick and Antonia Eastwood were the actors in Daisy's piece, a tender study of love set on a pub settee.
All the guys were great to work with, to be able to turn around performances so quick is a real and useful skill, and I look forward to working with them all again.

Finally yesterday (Thursday) and today, I god involved in the Cinemagic Festival workshops, that were run by Hubbard Casting and Patrick Bergin and Silé Bermingham. Cinemagic is an organisation that I have been wanting to get involved with for a long time, and I wish I had taken up their opportunities earlier because the workshops have been brilliant, and I have made countless contacts in the past two days.
Tonight the festival is rounded off by an awards ceremony in Belfast City Hall, which I will be attending, which will no doubt be attended by some of the many patrons of the festival, of whom there are numerous.

Like I mentioned, this week has been amazing, so I am getting ready to work with a whole raft of new people, who'll bring fresh ideas and impetus to my career. I can't wait.

14 Nov 2010

Modelling for Drink and Draw with Coffee House Art Club

Next Monday, I will be modeling for the Coffee House Art Club in their second Drink and Draw event. I have already modeling for them once, and it was a great experience, making various dramatic poses with fellow model and organiser, Jude McVittie.

The full gallery can be seen over at the CHAC website, but below are some with me in them. The poses were inspired by my performance in Lunch.

If you would like to get involved, it takes place in Castro's Coffee House at the end of Royal Avenue at 7pm on Monday, and cost £3. If you purchase food, you can also BYOB. It is a relaxed atmosphere, and a good chance to meet the talented members of CHAC.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="150" caption="Me at the knees of Jude McVitty"][/caption]

10 Nov 2010

Filming in Belfast with Queen's University students

Today I was filming for Queen's University students in Belfast city centre. It's a project I got into late, having only received the script on Monday, but we got through the first of two days filming today.

Produced by Shauna Coyles, the film, as yet untitled, was written and directed by Declan Murray, with DP duties being handled by James Ward, sound by Conall McMeekin and editing by Kerri Kelly.

We were shooting in Queen Street Studios, in the offices of Triplevision Productions, with the owner, Eamonn Devlin, doubling as actor in the project.

There is another day of shooting tomorrow, and the completion date is set for December 15th, so I should be able put some footage on the site then.

9 Nov 2010

Incident at Vichy plays to packed houses

Incident at Vichy completed it's run on Saturday, and played to packed audiences every night. The production was a triumph for Fringe Benefits, and if demand was fully met, I think we could have sold out another two nights. In response to this, it is highly likely that the show will be revived in the forthcoming months, just as the company's first production, Pack Up Your Troubles, is due to be taken on tour in March.

The cast of 21 (17 male, plus four non-speaking female roles) was impeccable, but couldn't have been anywhere near as successful without the continued input of the back stage staff. Frieda Slevin, and her assistant, Alex Moore ensured all our costumes were impeccable for every performance - despite the abuse the characters put them through. Jenny McDonald was working tirelessly throughout rehearsals locating some obscure props, and the set was desgined and costructed by Andy Gray and Colin Dunlop with an army of volunteers from the Vent Collective. Bryan Marshall published the programmes, which I managed to get signed by almost the eniter cast and crew (I intend to rectify the almost part of this within the next weeks).

All in all, the show went down a storm, and it means that I am bereft of a major project at present, but there are some small projects I have lined up, and a few potential auditions so the future is bright.

4 Nov 2010

Incident at Vichy ticket update: Tonight SOLD OUT

Tickets for tonight's performance of Incident at Vichy have sold out. There are still some tickets left for tomorrow (less than 10)± and Saturday (less than 20)±. To purchase your tickets, go to the Crescent's online box office.

±ticket numbers correct as of 10am Thursday.

3 Nov 2010

Performance of Arthur Miller's Incident at Vichy tomorrow

Tonight is the final rehearsal of Incident at Vichy before we go into performance tomorrow. It's the last opportunity to iron out the final kinks in the show, and as such is a nervously exciting part of the process.

This is the biggest production I have been in up to this point in my career, and the publicity for it is going into overdrive, with a feature on BBC Arts Extra on Monday adding to the various press coverage. I have been featured in today's Tyrone Constitution, and likely tomorrow's Ulster Herald, if all goes to plan.

The cast has been tremendous up to this point, and will no doubt continue as we go to performance. They are, in order of appearance;

Lebeau - Myself
Bayard - Tom Dart
Marchand - Jack Geary
Police Guard - Robert Render
Monceau - Glenn Hamill
Gypsy - Christian Jackson
Waiter - Vincent Tsang
Boy - Michael Burkes
Major - Brian Kennedy
First Detective - Rory McCadden
Old Jew - Denis McAlinden
Second Detective - Tucker Larkham
Leduc - Matt Faris
Police Captain - Ciaran Moore
Von Berg - Gerald McCann
Professor Hoffman - Mickey Mason
Ferrand
- Samuel Mahadea
Prisoners
- Janine Kennedy, Caroline Brennan, Peggy O'Neill, Sharon Curran

The show runs from tomorrow (Thursday 4th November) until Saturday in the Crescent Arts Centre. Book your tickets early to avoid disappointment.

25 Oct 2010

First Belfast Fringe Festival ends on a high

Belfast's first Fringe Festival ended last night with a karaoke in Ma Nelson's on the Lisburn Road. It was a fitting end (more performing!) to a hugely successful weekend.

Congratulations are in order for all concerned, and overall numbers exceeded expectations, especially Paul Currie, who packed 100 people into the The Errigle Inn, with his madcap puppet and props cartoon routine.

I was one of the army of volunteers who had the pleasure of seeing the show they were manning the doors for, and the rest of the shows in the festival for free. It was a privilege seeing the members of the Young Stars casting agency in their 3 Pint-Sized Productions, in Alchemy Studios, and Skewiff Theatre Company's presentation of The Waiting Room in the Belfast Film Festival building.

Our performance of The 39 Steps was a complete success too, with No Alibi's having to turn up to twenty people away at the door. The poetry jukebox was performing 20 poems an hour at Forestside, which was all made possible with the assistance of Castlereagh Borough Council.

There has been a lot learned over the weekend, meaning that next year's festival will be a feast of culture!

21 Oct 2010

The 39 Steps has sold out!

The next show I'm in, The 39 Steps, with Wireless Mystery Theatre, part of Belfast Fringe Festival has officially sold out - two days before the performance.

[caption id="attachment_368" align="alignleft" width="484" caption="Poster for Wireless Mystery Theatre's The 39 Steps"][/caption]

I went in to No Alibis to buy tickets for family members, and was informed that after my purchase, there were only five tickets remaining, of which two were instantly sold in front of me, and my friend informed me she had bought the final three.

This is a great (and just) reward for all the work Aislinn Clarke and everyone else has put into the show, and will keep us on our toes for the performance on Friday night.

The whole Fringe Festival is creating a great buzz around the city, and it's just a pity that resources forced organisers, Peter Quigley and his crew, to keep it within 3 days, and 20 venues. No doubt next year the Fringe will be huge, and will be threatening the main festival for punters' attention within the next few years.

I am volunteering in some of the other events, and will of course be attending as many of the rest as I can, which I will write about at some stage next week. This weekend is going to be hectic, going from performance to volunteering almost non-stop, but I can't wait for it.

20 Oct 2010

Incident at Vichy and The 39 Steps posters

Just a quick update to show the latest posters for ...Vichy and The 39 Steps.

 



[caption id="attachment_367" align="alignleft" width="343" caption="Poster for Fringe Benefits' production of Incident at Vichy"][/caption]



 

[caption id="attachment_368" align="alignleft" width="339" caption="Poster for Wireless Mystery Theatre's The 39 Steps"][/caption]

Fringe Benefits Theatre Company presents 'From Miller to Vichy and Beyond.’

'Fringe Benefits Theatre Company’ presents the Irish Premiere of Arthur Miller’s ‘Incident at Vichy’


4Th 5th 6th of November 2010 at the Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast

&

'From Miller to Vichy and Beyond.’


A Lively panel /audience discussion – on the  work of Arthur Miller, Vichy France and the particular relevance of this work to the world we live in today.





The discussion will be facilitated by

Malachi O’ Doherty


Saturday 6th November

Crescent Arts Centre

5-6pm.  Admission £1 at the door.

And don’t forget to come see the show at 8pm!


The Panel: Malachi O'Doherty, well-known and respected freelance writer, broadcaster and journalist; Professor David Johnston, Head Of School of Languages, literatures and Performing Arts at Queens University Belfast; Dr Phillip McGowan Senior Lecturer in American Literature at QUB with interest in 20th Century American poetry and fiction & Sheena Black Head of Drama at Lagan College.




Professor David Johnston


Professor David Johnston works at Queens University Belfast. He works in Spanish and Translation Theory, and is a multi-award winning translator for the stage, having written versions of over 30 plays from Europe and Latin America. He won the Observer Special Award for Achievement in Theatre, and has worked closely with the BBC, RSC and London's Gate Theatre. He recently adapted Moliere's The Miser for the Lyric Theatre Belfast.



Dr Phillip McGowan


Dr Phillip McGowan is Senior Lecturer in American Literature at QUB with interest in 20th Century American poetry and fiction. He is vice - chair of the Irish Association of American Studies and is currently working on a study of Las Vegas.



Malachi O'Doherty


Malachi O' Doherty is a well known and respected freelance writer and broadcaster, based in Belfast. He is author of five books, his most recent publication being Under His Roof (2009). Malachi has been a long running and forthright commentator on many local  politics  shows including Talkback and Hearts and Minds. He is widely published in The Irish Times, the Observer, The Guardian - and a regular contributor to the Belfast Telegraph.


Sheena Black


Sheena Black is the Head of Drama at Lagan Integrated College Belfast. She trained at Stranmillis and the Guildhall school of Music and Drama in London.
She has tutored Devised Theatre with Army Recruits in a unique course at St
Patrick’s Barracks, Ballymena;  inspired the first N. Irish Shakespeare
Training course for teachers that was led by the Royal Shakespeare Company
and set up Arts Focus, the first Theatre- Skills-for-Business Training Company, funded by LEDU.  Sheena co-directed a student production of ‘The Pilgrimage’, a political allegory, which was performed for   MLA’s in the Long Gallery at Stormont – in promenade style, much to their surprise! Incident at Vichy, for Sheena, brings back into sharp focus the experiences that her Jewish movement teacher, Helen Lewis, was subjected to, under the Nazi regime in WWII.

18 Oct 2010

Wireless Mystery Theatre and the Poetry Jukebox are ten of the best in The Belfast Fringe Festival

As well as performing in the Wireless Mystery Theatre at this year's Belfast Fringe Festival, I am also taking part in Fringe Benefits' Poetry Jukebox.

This was Peter Quigley's inspired idea to have people in the Forestside Shopping Centre pay a pound, go into a photo booth-sized jukebox, and hear the poem they had selected from the list, performed by an actor, for them and only them.

I am performing Jenny Kissed Me by Leigh Hunt and The Lake Isle of Innishfree by WIlliam Butler Yeats. Among the other poetics delights are If by Rudyard Kipling, Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll, and The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost.

Both the Poetry Jukebox and the Wireless Mystery Theatre are so intriguing that Nuala McKeever singled them out as shows to watch out for during the festival launch and The Belfast Telegraph named them both in the Top Ten Highlights of the festival.

So if you are heading to No Alibis on Friday for the Wireless Mystery Theatre, or are enjoying pre-Halloween shopping in Forestside and pop in for a poem, enjoy being part of the very first Belfast Fringe Festival.

13 Oct 2010

Press Release: Omagh Actor in Irish Premiere of Arthur Miller’s Play ‘Incident at Vichy’

Press Release
Omagh Actor in Irish Premiere of Arthur Miller’s Play ‘Incident at Vichy’

Omagh actor, James McAnespy is to appear in the Fringe Benefits Theatre Company Company production and Irish Premiere of ‘Incident at Vichy’, Arthur Miller’s one act play set during the round up of Jews in Vichy France in the Second World War. Ten men are held prisoner by fear, with no way out and only one final solution. The play is at the Crescent Arts Centre on the 4th, 5th, 6th of November 2010. Tickets are £8 and £10 and available at the Crescent box office and online at www.crescentarts.org.



‘Incident at Vichy’ is an exciting production that explores the themes of guilt, denial and complicity with the state forces of authority at the start of the round up of Jews in Vichy France in 1942. It is directed by Adrian Cooke and co-directed by Cathy McCullough from Fringe Benefits Theatre Company.



James McAnespy, actor with Fringe Benefits Theatre Company, said: “I have wanted to act in this play for such a long time. It has so many themes that still apply in today’s world. How do we deal with fear and a sense of threat to our lives? Do we conform, or struggle against the system? Do we look after our own needs or reach out to help others? Arthur Miller has presented us with many dilemmas to consider in this work! It has been a journey and a delight to get the opportunity to perform in it with such a dedicated cast.”



In ‘Incident at Vichy’ a group of men and young boy are detained and awaiting 'inspection' by German officers and Vichy France officials. Each one has been removed from the streets at random - not sure why he has been targeted. Each is faced with decisions about how to react – to be passive and conform in the hope of survival, struggle against authority and risk their lives, or continue in denial. They argue and cajole each other in the face of the unknown. Victims and persecutors seem trapped in a situation with little room for resistance – or is there?



Cathy McCullough, Co Director of Incident at Vichy and Director of Fringe Benefits Theatre Company said: “I am thrilled to be involved in this production. I have been an admirer of Arthur Miller’s work for a lifetime and am excited that Fringe Benefits has been able to produce the premiere of one of his most absorbing plays for our audiences in N. Ireland. This is a very adventurous production for us, requiring a large cast of 18 actors in period costume with a full stage set. That we have managed to pull it off is a tribute to the dedication of our cast and many volunteers. Their professionalism has been staggering. And of course, to the skill and tenacity of our director Adrian Cooke. But then, that’s what Fringe Benefits is about! “





The production of Incident at Vichy' is accompanied by an audience panel discussion 'From Miller to Vichy and Beyond' on Saturday 6th November at 5pm in the Crescent Arts Centre. Admission is £1 and tickets can be purchased at the door. The panel will be facilitated by the well-known journalist and commentator Malachi O'Doherty. Joining Malachi on the panel will be Professor David Johnston (QUB), Dr Phillip McGowan ( QUB), Ms Sheena Black, Head of Drama at Lagan College – and maybe one or two surprises!



Fringe Benefits works from the Crescent Arts Centre in South Belfast, where it was also originally housed in the early 80’s when it was one of the most respected and dynamic theatre companies in the City. Previous members, such as Conleth Hill, Michelle Fairley, Richard Orr and many others went on to achieve successful careers in the world of arts, entertainment and theatre.



The new ‘Fringe Benefits Theatre Company’ is one of the largest Community-based theatre companies in Northern Ireland. It is made up of over 30 actors, directors, writers and stage crew. Fringe Benefits is committed to providing professional level training, development and performance opportunities for all its members, while providing the public with fresh, interesting and absorbing theatre experiences. Fringe Benefits supports members in their goals toward professional careers in theatre and the arts.

For more information about the work of Fringe Benefits Theatre Company and how to join go to http://www.fringebenefitstheatrecompany.com [caption id="attachment_349" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Partial cast of Incident at Vichy"][/caption]

ENDS

12 Oct 2010

Incident at Vichy promotional photos

Rehearsals have been ongoing for Incident at Vichy, and we are really tearing into fifth gear now as the countdown to the 4th November intensifies.

Recently we had a professional photographer in to take promotional shots of us in character, and here are some of the results.

[caption id="attachment_351" align="alignleft" width="267" caption="Michael Burkes (dark coat), Matt Faris (front), Brian Kennedy (grey coat)"][/caption]
[caption id="attachment_349" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Partial cast of Incident at Vichy"][/caption]
[caption id="attachment_350" align="alignleft" width="199" caption="Myself, as the cowardly artist, Lebeau"][/caption]

11 Oct 2010

Performed Fast & Loose: 24 Hour Plays

This past Friday and Saturday I graduated to being a performed writer and staged director, all through the wonders of the 24 hour play format.

This was Accidental Theatre's Fast & Loose program, organised as part of the Queen's Quarter Weekend, and performed in The Space in Queen's Student' Union. The brief was simple enough, a play had to go from conception to performance in 24 hours.

There were a few caveats - no budget (all set and props had to be begged, borrowed or created from scratch, Blue Peter-style), a pre-set cast, and each play was to be within 7 minutes long - but working within restraints such as these helps nurture creativity, rather than inhibit it.

The set up was that writers, either in groups or individually, were sequestered in The Seamus Heaney Centre of Queen's University, from 8pm to 7am, to write the play. Then at 7am, the cast and directors took over and brought the words to life while the writers got some much-needed sleep.

The idea was the brainchild of Emily DeDakis who was overseeing everything throughout the 24 hours, without even so much as a furrowed brow. Her patience was exemplary. Also overseeing things was the president of Queen's University Players, Justyn MacKay, who guidance was unmatched.

Myself and Jack Geary were paired together, but since we had rehearsals for Incident at Vichy to attend during Saturday afternoon, we were briefed to write, direct and act our piece, which was a pioneering move for the program (get us, Lewis and Clarke!).

Entitled Charlatans, our idea was to have a pair of odious men use the staging of a bogus magic show to obtain young women's phone numbers. We had to rope in the talents of stage hands Darragh Cotter and Rebecca Mairs to perform with us, and they did admirably. Through the writing evening Emily and Lisa Keogh were on hand to keep us focused, and while we directing, Lisa May of Bruiser Theatre was offering us invaluable guidance. Over at the tech desk, Ciara McCafferty, David Kane and John Beecher were impeccable with their cues and timing, without which the piece may have fallen apart. The crowd responded really well to us, which gives me confidence in that performing comedy was not something I felt I had particularly adept at.

The other plays in the show were uniquely worthy in their own ways, and it was fascinating to see how many different ideas were gestated within such a minuscule time frame:

Fools and Their Followers, written by Philip Hurst, directed by Eilise McNicholas and featuring Colm Doran, Ross Jonas and Claire Mason was a biting satire on the cult of YouTube, and the people that become famous from it.

Patrick Fitzsymons' Love in a Small Place, directed by Seamus O'Hara, and featuring Marikje Cortenbach and Rory Knox was a family drama set in a dystopian future where the older generations must be dead in order for younger ones can be born.

Three young writers, Leana Arrell, Neal Cahoon and Brian Charity teamed up to create Douglas, a black comedy about a ruthless estate agent trying to sell a murder house to an eager couple. Featuring Nuala Donnelly, James Pelan and Molly Clarke, under the direction of Tom Saunders, the piece was perfectly pitched, and the audience loved it.

Rounding off the night was The Glass Door by Zosia Kuczynska, directed by Shireen Azarmi. This was a challenging, experimental piece about isolation featuring a brilliant performance from Amy Poole.

The whole experience taught me a lot about the process of theatre production, and showed that not having the time to dwell on anxieties affords the practitioners more freedom. Most of all it was a lot of fun, and great meeting a whole raft of new people who I look forward to working with again.

7 Oct 2010

Performing in Accidental Theatre's Fast & Loose program

I am teaming up with Accidental Theatre again for their inaugural Fast & Loose program. It is going to a chaotic staging of a short play that will have been conceived a mere 24 hours prior.

Working in conjunction with The Queen's University Players, and being performed as part of the Queen's Quarter Weekends - an initiative to promote the cultural value of the unique area of South Belfast that surrounds the University - the project is the brainchild of Accidental's dramaturg, Emily De Dakis.

I am doing my play with Jack Geary, who I have been working with on The 39 Steps as well as Incident at Vichy, so I have a good working relationship with him.

It's being performed this Saturday evening in The Space in the Queen's Student's Union building, so come along and see four plays for a measly £3 (or £2 for QU Players members, or with a Romeo and Juliet ticket stub).

6 Oct 2010

Becoming a member of the Coffee House Arts Club

It has been a busy few weeks (which can only be a good thing) and I intend to post about them in the next few days to keep everyone informed of what's been going on.

One of the things I want to publicise more is the Coffee House Art Club, who meet up every week with the intention of having the creative community in Belfast actually meet each other, and let each other know what is going on. It's a good idea, and I met a lot of interesting people, mostly comic book writers and artists.

It's on on Tuesday evenings around 7pm in Cafe Renoir on Botanic Avenue (although the venue is subject to change), so come along and get to know everyone.

PRESS RELEASE: Fringe Benefits Theatre Company Presents the Irish Premiere of Arthur Miller's Incident at Vichy

Fringe Benefits Theatre Company presents

Irish Premiere of Arthur Miller’s

Incident at Vichy

France 1942

10 Men Held prisoner by fear

One final solution - No way out

4-6 November 2010, Tickets £10 / £8 (concession)

TO BOOK TICKETS ON LINE GO TO

https://crescentarts.ticketsolve.com/shows/26500374/events

Directed by Adrian Cooke, Co-directed by Cathy McCullough
Performed by Fringe Benefits Theatre Company


Arthur Miller's one act play, set in France in World War Two, explores the themes of guilt, denial and complicity with the state forces of authority at the start of the round up of Jews in Vichy France in 1942.


A group of men are detained and awaiting 'inspection' by German officers and Vichy officials, each man has been pulled off the street, not sure why he has been targeted. They are faced with the decision about how to act, either passively to conform in the hope of survival, or to struggle against authority and risk their lives. In Incident at Vichy the characters argue and cajole each other to act in the face of the unknown. Both victims and persecutors are trapped in a system where they find little room for resistance.


Fringe Benefits Theatre Company is one of the largest community based theatre companies in Northern Ireland , committed to training and developing the acting and theatre skills of its members.


The company is made up of actors, writers and directors committed to professional skills training, providing members with performance opportunities, encouraging their progress toward careers in professional theatre. For more information about the work of Fringe Benefits Theatre Company and how to join go to www.fringebenefitstheatrecompany.com.


Fringe Benefits Theatre Company is a ‘Not for profit organisation’ and members receive no payment for productions.


Incident at Vichy is licensed by arrangement with Josef Weinberger Plays Ltd, New York .

22 Sep 2010

The 39 Steps to be performed at Belfast Fringe Festival

It has just been announced that Wireless Mystery Theatre's adaptation of Orson Welles' The 39 Steps has been picked up to be performed as part of the first ever Belfast Fringe Festival.

The show went down a storm when it played in the Chillifest this month, with the performance tent overflowing with viewer, and the good word that spread from the performance was what inspired the organisers to book us.

It will be performed in No Alibis Book Store, Botanic Avenue on October 22nd, with tickets available now at £5.

As mentioned above, this is the first Belfast Fringe, but I'm sure that with the good organisation that has been evident so far, it could be on a par with Edinburgh in the decades to come.

13 Sep 2010

Shows I saw at the Edinburgh Festival 2010

Far be it from me to use my website and unedifying ego to promote only myself, so I am taking the time now to try to review the other shows I was lucky enough to see while I was in Edinburgh.


First off, I need to extol the virtues of the best bar that I know of in Edinburgh - The Banshee Labyrinth. The place has its own cinema. It's own cinema FFS! While I was there I bumped in to the wonderful Shappi Khorsandi, got speaking to some Scottish beat poets, The DNA Poets, and then got invited in to a screening of a web-based episodic TV show. You don't get that in Wetherspoons.



I went in to see Tim Turnbull's Tales of Terror, which I can definitely say was the most left field comedy I saw at the Fringe, but was all the better for it. It was truly unique material he was performing - mostly through the medium of poetry - about horses being possessed by goats and other macabre delights. I will be looking out for him again.




The films I saw were episodes of My Name is Tim. At first, I was apprehensive that it was just going to be another student gore-fest, but the writing is much more astute, and the comedy had me in stitches. The basic premise is that Tim is the last remaining survivor of the vampire-slaying Van Helsing dynasty, so he is the only one left who can adequately cope with the new generation of bloodsuckers and monsters doing the rounds. Episodes are still being posted on to their site, so check them out, pronto!

Sharing my venue, the GRV were several impressive shows all part of the Edinburgh Fringe (and let me take this opportunity to thank the staff at the GRV, for being so helpful and accommodating throughout our run). One of whom was Charlie Talbot with his stand up Someone Better Known. This was a very revealing portrait of Charlie, going through his life up to this point, where he revealed he was suffering from depression and how he was dealing with it. To be able to tackle such a subject without bringing the spirit of the show down to an irredeemable level is a knack, and I left uplifted, rather than depressed.

Later in the evening, the GRV hosted Lady C, a docudrama critique of the impact of the novel Lady Chatterley's Lover on 2010. It was a very daring show, and took great courage from the cast for a play involving unconcealed full frontal nudity. I've never read the book (and a straw poll of the audience revealed that I was far from alone in my ignorance - only a handful in a packed house had read it, compared with nearly half having read Harry Potter), but the presentation of some of the scenes has got me intrigued and it sounds much more interesting that the leering coverage it receives would have one believe.

A bit out of the way, in the more refined surrounds of Edinburgh New Town, Sean Hegarty played his Tim Vine-esque set to a hugely responsive audience at CafeRenroc. Sean was on the BBC NI's reality show Find Me the Funny, and is continuing to work his way up the comedy ranks.

Pauline Goldsmith's PG Tips Also from Northern Ireland was Pauline Goldsmith, whose act was familiar to me since it revolved around growing up in Catholic Northern Ireland. Some of the material ventured off into more risqué territory though, which I certainly wasn't expecting. She went down a treat though.

Shakespeare's Shorts: At the other side of the city in the Beehive, was where I saw my first show - Shakespeare's Shorts. I admit, I only went in on a spur of the moment to escape the rain, but it was well worth it. Taking some of Shakespeare's classic scenes, performers Kate Roxburgh & Shae Kuehlmann, injected a mixture of modern wit and old style physical humour to great effect. The fact that I walked in just as they were calling each other c*nts, coupled with my (currently) distinctive beard meant we were joking with each other throughout the rest of the week.



Out the Window presents Freefall: On the dancefloor of Base nightclub on the Cowgate was where I saw Out The Window's sketch show, Freefall. This was a more traditional comedy sketch show, that wouldn't be out of place on Radio 4 at 6pm, but sometimes the sketches were stretched a line or two too far. But there was definitely material that was strong, and I'd be surprised if I don't see one or more of these guys (who I believe are still in University) hitting the big time soon.

John Robertson: A Nifty History of Evil
Next door to Base, in Opium Nightclub (which work surprisingly well as comedy venues) was my pick of the festival, stand up John Robertson. He is from Australia, but I am confident that he will be making a much bigger splash on British media over the next year. His act was (along with Tim Turnbull, and Paul Ricketts) one of the few I saw that maintained a very definite theme throughout, and his was how to be an unconscionable bastard. By using the great dictators of the past, he went through the various means by which to be overlord of all. It really was hilarious, and being part of the PBH Free Fringe, was the gem of  the festival for me. I'll be looking out for him again, and will recommend more people to see him.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="245" caption="John Robertson Nifty History of Evil. My Favourite show of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival"][/caption]

Paul Ricketts: Kiss the Badge, Fly the Flag Down the road in the Just the Tonic at the Caves was where I caught the aforementioned Paul Ricketts. His show's theme was his response to the racism he has experienced from England fans throughout his lifetime, and how that reconciles with him wanting to support England for the past World Cup. He presented videos of interviews he conducted with children in a school he teaches in, and with celebrities, such as Adrian Lester from The Hustle, Steven K Amos, and Billy Bragg. It was an informative and funny show, and certainly brought up the dichotomy of the multicultural make up of the England team, wrapping themselves in the flag, and the electioneering BNP also wrapping themselves in the same flag. Although the videos could have done with some post-production work to enhance the visuals and audio, I would recommend this show.

I was generally disappointed by the lack of theatre at affordable prices, or at least the lack of publicity for such. It appears that comedy is abundantly more prevalent at the Edinburgh Fringe, although it may have been my fault for not looking in the right places. One I did go to see in the Bedlam Theatre was The Wake, by Jonathan Brittain. Ostensibly it was a one man show, but there was another actor planted in the audience, and their interactions became the fulcrum for the show. I have to admit that I had an ulterior motive for going to see this particular play, in that I am currently writing a play about a wake, and I wanted to see if my time was being wasted by covering material that had already been done. It appears that our two plays have different subject matter, and consequently I shall continue working on Sitting Up for Michael.

One of the pitfalls of trying to promote a show at Edinburgh is that flyering people usually annoys them, or they'll ignore you anyway, so when two charming American guys sang to get me to take a flyer, I was suitably impressed, and went to see The Young Dads' show in the Carlton Hotel. Their show, A Perhaps Too Intimate Evening of Music and Hilarity was similar to Flight of the Conchords in that they performed almost entirely through musical comedy. The angle was that the company trying to promote them was consulting focus groups to try to hit as many niche demographics as possible, so they would change their performing personas. Most of them were great, but one or two verged on lazy stereotypes. Also while they were performing a PowerPoint Presentation was being projected behind them, which complimented the songs. Again, for the most part these were brilliant, but at times it was hard to decide which to concentrate on, the lyrics they were singing, or the visuals. It was a highly original show though, and I expect big things from these guys, and they got a huge turnout on the night I was there.

Finally, the best show I saw at the festival was Simon Donald is Completely Hatstand. I was aware of Donald's work because I have read Viz, and love its brand of off-kilter humour, but this was his first attempt at stand up. His talent lies in creating characters, and each one he played on stage was absolutely spot on, with perfect attention to minutiae. Between donning a hat and jacket for each character that were placed on a hatstand on stage (hence the show's name, as well as a popular phrase that originated in Viz that became parlance for eccentricity), Donald gave some anecdotes about his time as editor of Britain's 3rd biggest selling magazine, that were both informing and funny. I have never seen an audience so crippled with laughter as this show, and I hope he tours with it, because I would love to see it again.

I didn't have time to mention the street theatre performers I saw as well, who are keeping the art of the circus alive, by juggling chainsaws, hopping a ladder over a defenseless boy lying on the ground, and tightrope walking. Nor did I have time to see some of my friends from London Comedy Writers who were performing, Strong and Wrong, and ComComedy

I can't wait to go back to Edinburgh, and I have learnt enough now to know how to make the most of it next year, both as a performer and an audience member.

9 Sep 2010

Performance of The 39 Steps this Saturday

This Saturday will see the premiere performance of Wireless Mystery Theatre's adaptation of The 39 Steps by Orson Welles. The show is presented to the audience as if they were in the audience for the original recording of the play by Orson Welles and his cast in 1939.

We have had a dress rehearsal in full period costume, and will be having a tech rehearsal in the No Alibis Book Tent on Saturday.

This is a really exciting project, so congratulations must go to Aislinn Clarke for bringing this eccentric idea to fruition.

The performance is at 3pm in Custom House Square, as part of the ongoing Open House Festival and Chillifest. Tickets are £5 (children free) to get in to the Chillifest, and the No Alibis Book Tent is free to enter once your in.

I look forward to performing this, and can't wait to see you there.

6 Sep 2010

Pictures from the Edinburgh Festival

Here are some of the pictures of us performing Steven Berkoff's Lunch at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival - a show which those who seen it described as "the best two-hander I have seen at the festival."

[caption id="attachment_304" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="James McAnespy onstage in Stephen Berkoff's Lunch"][/caption][caption id="attachment_303" align="alignnone" width="225" caption="James McAnespy and Caroline Brennan onstage in Stephen Berkoff's Lunch"][/caption][caption id="attachment_302" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="James McAnespy and Caroline Brennan onstage in Stephen Berkoff's Lunch"][/caption][caption id="attachment_301" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="James McAnespy and Caroline Brennan doing street performances of Stephen Berkoff's Lunch"][/caption][caption id="attachment_300" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="James McAnespy and Caroline Brennan onstage in Stephen Berkoff's Lunch"][/caption]James McAnespy and Caroline Brennan onstage in Stephen Berkoff's Lunch

27 Aug 2010

Half way through the Edinburgh Festival run

WE are about half way through the run at the Edinburgh Festival, with three more shows to go. The audiences have been steadily rising, and last night was our biggest yet. With the bank holiday weekend, and the increasing word of mouth, we are confident that numbers will continue to rise until Sunday.

I have of course been going to see other shows as well, some of which were truly incredible, and no doubt they'll be going on to bigger things in the future. I'll write a more detailed post on the shows I saw when I return home.

This has been a great experience so far, and it's great to be in amongst all the creative talent of the Edinburgh Festival. If you ever get a chance to go, go!

24 Aug 2010

It's all go here in Edinburgh

I am currently writing in the inkling of free time I have available to me in the bustling vibrancy of Edinburgh.

We had our first show yesterday, and even with an intimate audience, the show went down a storm, and it was incredibly liberating to get the first show under our belts.

With more time for flyering available to us now that the props, staging and tech is all sorted, the audience will grow exponentially from now until the end of the week.

I also got to finally meet the cast of the other show, Twelfth Night by 2, Aleda Bliss and Rosa Palmeri, and managed to attend their late night show. It was a frantic telling of the Bard's comedy, with them playing all of the characters by jumping in and out of costume between lines! It was incredible and a testament to their skills that they made this complicated, multi-character play easy to follow in these circumstances.

I have my eyes on a few shows that I'm going to try to see during the week, and hopefully meet some intriguing and interesting artists that I will work with in the future.

21 Aug 2010

Preparing to Leave for the Edinburgh Festival

I am currently gearing up to leave for Edinburgh. It's an early flight in the morning, and a hectic day tomorrow, checking in to my new apartment and leafletting like my life depended on it.
In case your in Edinburgh next week, the show is in the GRV (37 Guthrie Street) from Monday to Sunday at 3pm.

Also on our bill is Twelfth Night by Two, which is two young American actresses playing Shakespeare's comedy all by themselves, which I'm reliably informed is truly enthralling, that's the late show in the same venue.

Not forgetting my other performances coming up soon. On the 11th September (no longer the 8th), is The 39 Steps, which is coming along swimmingly, with the commercials now being rehearsed. This will be a unique experience for the audience - they will be transferred back in time to the 30s, and will watch Orson Welles in all his glory directing this thrilling radio play. Come along to it in the Custom House Square as part of the Open House Festival/Chillifest.

Also on the horizon is Arthur Miller's Incident at Vichy. Rehearsals have been going strong for a while now, and getting all the cast together really portrays the scale of the production - 18 characters, all male.

There are also plans afoot to take all of these performances for further performances in different venues than they are currently scheduled for, which I will let you know about as they come to pass.

I intend to post again from Edinburgh at least once to give an account of how things are going over there, not least to recount my experiences at my first Edinburgh Festival. This is an exciting few weeks coming up for me, and I intend to make the most of them.

6 Aug 2010

Trailer for Lord of the Rings prequel Hope released

Today the trailer for Ben Mudge's Lord of the Rings prequel, Hope, has been released, to much salivating from a baying public, no doubt. Or myself at least, since this has been a project I was incredibly impressed by.

Ben's ambition has been bold, considering he had such a limited budget, but I think the results really speak for themselves.



Helping out in post production were Jonny Walker, editing, and Chris McCann providing the emphatic score.

My congratulations go out to all involved, and I can't wait to see the full length picture doing the festival circuit.

3 Aug 2010

Press Release: MAGNETIC Theatre Company to play at Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Belfast's Magnetic Theatre Company are gearing up to perform their debut show, Steven Berkoff's Lunch, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Produced by impresario David Mann and starring up-and-coming actors Caroline Brennan from Castlewellan and James McAnespy from Omagh, the play is an exploration into relationship between two people who meet on a beach during their lunch break, through Berkoff's acerbic eyes.

James McAnespy has told how he looks forward to the challenge of taking Berkoff to the stage.

"Berkoff's work is designed to challenge the audience, so the performances have to match the pitch and tone of the source material, or else the impact will be lost.

"His writing is never simple - every word has its own significance, which creates many layers of character and subplot.

"That is why this play has been the biggest challenge of my career so far.

"This will be my first time at the Fringe, so I'm thrilled to be able to experience it from both sides of the 'fourth wall'."

The play is being performed from the 23-29 August in the GRV at 3pm. Tickets, priced at £5 can be purchased at the door.

James can be contacted further via me@jamesmcanespy.co.uk, or via his web site www.jamesmcanespy.co.uk

25 Jul 2010

Rehearsals in full swing for Incident at Vichy and Lunch

Currently rehearsals for my current shows, Incident at Vichy and Lunch, are motoring ahead at full pelt, with two rehearsals of each a week keeping me on my toes.
This period of gestation is one of the most exciting parts of being in a play, when the project really starts to take shape, and you are really getting to grips with the characters and interacting for the first time with your fellow cast members.
With ...Vichy today we set down a very solid opening ten minutes, with Vincent Tsang, Sam Mahadeo, Brian Kennedy, Tom Dart, Jack Geary, Glenn Hamill, Denis McAlinden and Andy Grey all putting in great performances in front of director Adrian Cooke, who seemed suitably impressed.
In our rehearsals for Lunch, myself and Caroline Brennan are biting our way into a very dense piece of drama, under the direction of Richard Sloane, with admirable results.
It's difficult juggling two pieces of drama, but I am confident I will be able to keep it under control, and it's certainly better than having nothing to be preparing for.

8 Jul 2010

I am performing at the Edinburgh Fringe festival in Steven Berkoff’s Lunch

I have successfully auditioned for a part in a performance of Steven Berkoff's play, Lunch. It is with an ambitious new theatre group, Magnetic Theatre Company.

Produced by David Mann, they have booked a slot at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which is a great opportunity to get more publicity, and perform to a whole new audience.

I am playing opposite Caroline Brennan, who is a fellow member of Fringe Benefits, and more than capable as a co-lead.

The play is a post-modern take on sexual relationships, with an uncompromising tone exploring the base underbelly of sex. It is definitely a challenging piece, and definitely expands my dramatic range.

This is an exciting project to be part of, and should open many doors for me.

Performance of Some Kind of Stranger tonight

Tonight is the performance of William Patterson's Some kind of Stranger at Blick Studios. It is part of Accidental Theatre's VI series of rehearsed readings and, as with the others, it is directed by Richard Lavery.


The cast is young, and I have worked with a couple before on the last reading: Christine Clare, Helen Ashton, Chloe Fox, Cormac Brown, Dan Leith, with Emily de Dakis reading.

I am really looking forward to it, because the script is really solid, and the rehearsals have been fun.

The event is free, so if you are searching for something different to do tonight, come down to the Blick for a night of new theatre.

22 Jun 2010

Screening of Number 35 at QFT

Deborah McCartney informed me yesterday that the film Number 35 (title subject to change) is to be screened in the QFT on Wednesday.


This is a film I have been really looking forward to seeing, based on a family's coping with a bereavement, while also sorting out the intricacies of bequeathments.


The film was directed by Cliodhna O'Halloran, and written by Shauna Mohan, who I expect will be in attendance.


Incidentally, the completion of this project means that I only have to wait for the full length edit of Hope to complete my current show reel. I will be posting it as soon as I have it completed.

16 Jun 2010

Role in Wireless Mystery Theatre confirmed

Today I got confirmation that i am playing several roles in the Wireless Mystery Theatre's production of Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps.



This is an intriguing project, the brain child of Aislinn Clarke, a fellow presenter on Blast 106, where audience's experience is that the performance of the script is taking place live for the first time, as if they were transported back to the thirties to the original Orson Welles recording.

The performance is scheduled for Wednesday 8th September, in the No Alibi's Bookstore on Botanic Avenue, Belfast, as part of* the Open House Festival. (Incidentally, Modest Mouse, my favourite band, are also playing at the festival, so I am sharing a listing with the mighty Mouse - long may it continue).



Like I said, this is an intriguing project, and the fact that it's a radio play means I can overlap my commitment to Vichy, due to there being no lines to learn, so I can't wait.

Update: Aislinn has got in contact to let me know that we are performing in the Open House Festival, not No Alibi’s in September. We are performing at No Alibi’s on a different date, both to be confirmed.

15 Jun 2010

Role in Irish Premier of Incident at Vichy confirmed

It has just been announced that I am to play Ledeau in the Irish premier of Arthur Miller's Incident at Vichy.

Written in the early 60s, Vichy is considered one of Miller's lost plays. It tells the story of several men who have been arrested, and are awaiting interrogation by Nazi guards. They discuss rumours of people being rounded up and killed en masse, but noone can confirm them, while others refuse to believe that such barbarism could be possible.

The director is Adrian Cooke, and its part of the Fringe Benefits Theatre Group's winter schedule.

Obviously this is exciting news, and the first performance is pencilled in for Thursday 5th November, with further performances in various venues throughout the province, and perhaps beyond.

10 Jun 2010

Screening of Hope in Odeon, Belfast

Tonight, Hope, the Lord of the Rings film I acted in was screened in the Odeon cinema in Belfast, as part of the HND show for Belfast Metropolitan College.



The show was huge hit, and was among the most popular of the evening, the audience rapt by the visual spectacle of the piece.

The film was edited down from 11 minutes to seven, and even then it was two minutes longer than the brief allowed, but I guess the invigilators were so impressed that they overlooked this. Unfortunately my major scene was one of the big casualties of the cut.

All the guys were there, Chris, Jonny, Aisling, and of course, the director, Ben.

It was great to see the finished project, but I can't wait to see the full length version.

Blast Radio show from 9 June 2010 podcast.

This is a show myself, Sean Treanor, William Devine, and Marty Devine made for Blast 106 on June 9, 2010.



Topics being sent up include Glee, hypnotism, leg waxing, and other general banter.

Download it here (58.4MB, mp3), and tell me what you think.

9 Jun 2010

Sinead McDonald photoshoot head shots ready

Sinead was very prompt in returning the photos, and now they are ready for publication.



So let me know in the comments which one(s) you think is the best.

If you are looking for professional head shots, I would definitely recommend Sinead, especially if you are based in Dublin.

PS. Sorry to Sinead for giving her the wrong name in the previous post.

30 May 2010

Photos of Leopoldville reading released

The photos from the reading of Leopoldville have been released on the Accidental Theatre website.

[caption id="attachment_160" align="aligncenter" width="199" caption="From back to front: Cormac Brown, myself, Shaun Blaney (obscured), Ryan Crown, David Bell"][/caption]

For more pictures, see the Images section.