Next Up

Next up: I will be featuring in the short films Dark & Stormy and Belfast Caliber 9.

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

‘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 [caption id="attachment_349" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Partial cast of Incident at Vichy"][/caption]


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)


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

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 .