8 Jun 2012

The Odd Couple, Sitting Up for Michael tour and Pick N Mix

Well, I've had such a hectic month - three plays in 30 days - that I haven't been able to find space to write here about it.

First, I was in the brilliant Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival as part of Skewiff Theatre's production of Neil Simon's classic, The Odd Couple. Alongside the not inconsiderable talent of Joe Lindsay, Morgan Hearst, Christian Winterman (nee Jackson), Griffin Madill, Moninne Dargan and Emma McErlean we packed out the Dark Horse bar - a testament to the talent of director Mary Lindsay.



Then, within three days of finishing that my own company King's Fool Productions finally brought Sitting Up for Michael to the stage. I've been writing ...Michael for the guts of two years now, and to see it finally on it's feet in front of a paying audience is a hugely gratifying experience. Helen Donnelly resumed directorship after skippering the rehearsed reading that Accidental organised in November 2011. The cast, including Marianne March, Naomi Rocke, Cathy Brennan-Bradley, Benjamin Gould, Brian Patrick Kennedy and Michael O'Sullivan were sourced from across Ireland and worked exceptionally hard to bring my vision to fruition, and I can't thank them enough. With a backstage crew of Glenn Hamill (stage manager), Kerrie Milford (props/costumes), Shireen Azarmi (sound/tech) and Sharon Curran (production manager) we couldn't fail to put on a top class production. The play debuted in The Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast, before travelling down to The Strule Arts Centre, Omagh last week and tonight will conclude its tour in The Alley Theatre, Strabane. So far over 300 people have seen the show, so an extended tour in the near future may be on the cards!



Also, tomorrow (one day after ...Michael concludes - see not a moment to breathe!) I am in Accidental's production of Intervention, by Dave Kinghan. This thriller, set entirely within a tiny cell tells the story of two guerrilla performance artists who must try to figure out why they have been put there. This is the first full Accidental production I have been involved in, after working with them over the last few years on their rehearsed readings programme. It's great to be working with director Richard Lavery again, and with a three person cast made up of myself, Miche Doherty and Matt Faris, Accidental live up to their reputation as one of the leading emerging theatre companies in Belfast, and they are going to light up The Mac's Pick N Mix festival.

So as we go hurtling in to summer, I might have a chance to take a breather and watch some football - although not much by the looks of things!

23 Apr 2012

PRESS RELEASE: New Play by Northern Ireland Writer Set to Premiere Next Month

Omagh-born playwright James McAnespy’s first play Sitting Up for Michael will premiere at Derry Playhouse on Saturday May 19th.

The new play, the first production by his company King’s Fool, is set at a wake house in rural county Tyrone.

Image
Poster for Sitting Up for Michael
McAnespy has expressed concern that the increased pressures of modern lifestyles and increased youth emigration threaten the viability of sitting up for the deceased in a wake house.

“Irish wakes are a unique form of mourning,” McAnespy said. “It allows the mourners to celebrate the life of the deceased as well as providing a platform for people to offer their condolences if the death was a tragic one.

“It is unfortunate that we are already seeing the tradition is being practiced less and less in city environments.”

The comedy, which McAnespy will be acting in, is a bittersweet comedy about the tensions that arise when the truth comes to the surface, especially when emotions are already high and liberated by drink. Through this prism, Sitting Up for Michael explores themes of family,
bereavement, youth unemployment, bullying and many other aspects of 21st century life in Ireland.

“Everyone has been to a wake,” McAnespy said, “and people will recognise the characters in the play that are in every small town in Ireland, so audiences will be able to relate to the action on stage.”

The cast of seven is a blend of youth and experience and is made up of actors from across the province, including some who are making their professional debuts. Brian Kennedy from Strabane plays the grumpy Brian, Marianne March plays his ambitious sister, Benjamin Gould plays the
charismatic Joe, Naomi Rocke plays the spiteful Carla, Michael O’Sullivan of Dublin plays the troubled Billy, and Cathy Brennan-Bradley plays the charitable Doris. The director, Helen Donnelly from Newry, has been training in London and is now establishing herself as one of the leading
young directors in Belfast.

Following the Playhouse premiere Sitting Up for Michael will play Belfast, Omagh and Strabane.

Tickets for the premiere priced £11, £8 concessions are available form Derry Playhouse Box Office via http://www.derryplayhouse.co.uk , in person or by phone on 71268027

12 Jan 2012

Sitting Up for Michael at the audition stage

Over the last while I have been preparing King's Fool Productions for our first major production, my play Sitting Up for Michael. We will be holding out audition on Sunday having received over 400 applicants from all over the UK and Ireland.
The standard was so high, it was excrutiatingly difficult to have to choose who to invite.
I'll be sitting alongside the director Helen Donnelly, who directed the rehearsed reading in November, but my role will mostly be to read in.
We are still sorting out then locations of the tour, but we'll be touring across the province in May and June, and I'm really looking forward to it.

Sitting Up for Michael at the Audition Stage (archive post)

This post first appeared on James' personal blog in 2012.

Over the last while I have been preparing King's Fool Productions for our first major production, my play Sitting Up for Michael. We will be holding auditions on Sunday having received over 400 applicants from all over the UK and Ireland.

The standard was so high, it was excrutiatingly difficult to have to choose who to invite.
I'll be sitting alongside the director Helen Donnelly, who directed the rehearsed reading in November, but my role will mostly be to read in.

We are still sorting out then locations of the tour, but we'll be touring across the province in May and June, and I'm really looking forward to it.

25 Nov 2011

King's Fool Productions Officially Launches (archive post)

This post was first published in November 2011, some subsequent editing, which is in italics, has taken place in February 2014.

So we are finally launched. It's been a hectic few months, but on Monday November 21st 2011 we officially launched King's Fool Productions.
A big thank you to all who came, and if you missed it, check out some of the photos by Neil Harrison.

To hold a mirror up to the world

Among the things that we went through was defining our company mission statement - To hold a mirror up to the World. What this means is that we will seek to reflect the real world through a variety of means; realistic dramas that offer a snapshot of life in 21st century Ireland; Satirical comedies, particularly about the law; farcical comedies with elements of physical performance.

We also announced our tour of Sitting Up for Michael in May and June 2012. We have dates set down in [Strule Arts Centre] Omagh on June 1st and [Alley Theatre] Strabane on June 8th, and we are in negotiations with venues in Belfast [Crescent Arts Centre] and throughout the province.

The play, set during an overnight sit up at a wake was previewed by Accidental Theatre in a rehearsed reading where it went down a storm with the crowd. The fantastic cast were directed by Helen Donnelly, who will be taking the reins for the full performance.

Goolie's Human Taxidermy

Our 2013 show will be a farcical comedy, Goolie's Human Taxidermy. Poor Letitia Goolie must come up with a novel way to return to the lifestyle she has become accustomed to. James is currently in the process of writing this, and the company is hoping to preview it at next year's Pick n Mix festival.

Untitled Ariel MacMillan Musical

In 2014, King's Fool will be embarking on it's first musical, about a Page 3 model who gets breast cancer - how will she cope when her world is torn apart. The sensitive, but comedic piece will involve a score from Marty Devine.

7 Nov 2011

King's Fool Productions

King's Fool Productions has been taking up the bulk of my time recently, so these pastures have been left untended recently. Not to worry, when the launch has taken place later this month full service will be resumed.

King's Fool is my new production company, and I have been working away trying to book venues for Sitting Up for Michael, a full professional production which will be touring in Summer 2012.

Head over to the website, designed by Alex McCooke, or Like the Facebook Page for further updates.

Also, don't forget, ...Michael is getting his stage debut in the Ulster Hall on November 16, in a rehearsed reading by Accidental Theatre. The cast is set in place, with a variety of people I've worked with before (Ed Boyd, Chris McCurry, Charmaine McBride) as well as some new faces (Francis Mezza, Victoria Gleason, Chris Grant and Mary Lindsay) and the director is Helen Donnelly, another artist who I haven't had the pleasure of working with yet, but having spoke to her about the play, I'm confident she will do a brilliant job.

26 Sep 2011

King's Fool Productions brings Sitting Up for Michael to the Northern Ireland stage (archive post)

This is a portion of a post that first appeared on James' personal blog back in 2012.

King's Fool Productions has finally brought Sitting Up for Michael to the stage. I've been writing ...Michael for the guts of two years now, and to see it finally on it's feet in front of a paying audience is a hugely gratifying experience.

Helen Donnelly resumed directorship after skippering the rehearsed reading that Accidental organised in November 2011.

The cast, including Marianne March, Naomi Rocke, Cathy Brennan-Bradley, Benjamin Gould, Brian Patrick Kennedy and Michael O'Sullivan were sourced from across Ireland and worked exceptionally hard to bring my vision to fruition, and I can't thank them enough.

With a backstage crew of Glenn Hamill (stage manager), Kerrie Milford (props/costumes), Shireen Azarmi (sound/tech) and Sharon Curran (production manager) we couldn't fail to put on a top class production.

The play debuted in The Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast, before travelling down to The Strule Arts Centre, Omagh last week and tonight will conclude its tour in The Alley Theatre, Strabane. So far over 300 people have seen the show, so an extended tour in the near future may be on the cards!