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11 Apr 2017

Arthur Miller's Incident at Vichy (2010-11): The American Great Tackles Europe's Nadir

𝔄rthur Miller's best work focused on the American experience. The American Dream, where every man can raise a family by sheer strength of spirit in The Land of the Free was exposed in his most famous work, Death of a Salesman. And the puritanical vim of the early settlers, who curtailed female empowerment/dealt with difficult women, by burning them at the stake in the Salem Witch Trials was laid bare in The Crucible, while serving as the perfect backdrop for a metaphor on McCarthyism.

12 Mar 2011

Filmed TG4 show, Éalú, in Armagh and Vichy performance

This week I was in Armagh Prison filming Éalú with Magamedia for TG4. Éalú is a documentary series focused on famous prison breaks, with actors providing visuals to accompany interviews.

I was playing the role of Sean Bourke, a political activist who planned and executed the escape of George Blake, a Soviet double agent who was incarcerated in Wormwood Scrubs prison. Their plan was ingenious, involving a rope ladder reinforced with knitting needles, forged documents, uninhibited derring-do and a walkie-talkie hidden in a pot plant.

Bourke was a live wire character, being imprisoned for mailing letter bombs to senior police officers, and having difficulty dealing with a drinking problem.

The other main actors were Shane Morgan and Mark Byatt and we were improvising scenes throughout the two shooting days. They were great actors and it is always great to be working off such great performers.

Part of the escape plan involved me making a quick escape in a vintage Ford Prefect, which was great except I had only one driving lesson in my entire life! It took about seven takes, but we eventually got the shot and I got invaluable driving experience!

Overall it was an incredible experience and to date the most significant screen work I have done. I can't wait to see it completed.

Now I go from one performance to a completely different one as Fringe Benefits revives Arthur Miller's Incident at Vichy in the Belfast Synagogue (The Wolfson Centre) tomorrow and Monday nights (13th and 14th March). These will be the last time I perform as the downtrodden artist Lebeau, which will hurt since he has been a part of my life for nearly a year now. The production has really kicked into gear, and the adrenaline rush the actors will get from performing in front of a Jewish crowd will spur the production into greatness, I am certain.

It is free and starts at 7pm, so it'll be first come first served so take the opportunity to see this show while you can.

19 Feb 2011

Recording radio ad, critical feedback for Sitting up for Michael and Incident at Vichy rehearsals to restart

This week I recorded a radio commercial for the ad agency Navigator Blue, in the Picture House Studios. It was a hugely enjoyable experience, with a highly professional setup in the Studio. I had to record several short lines in a variety of rural Ulster accents, which portrayed the scope of the client's market.

The ad will run on several stations in the mid Ulster region, and, if I can, I will put a copy on the website when it is completed.

Also this week, I met up with Emily DeDakis, the dramaturg for Accidental Theatre to discuss Sitting Up for Michael, the play I wrote. It was a hugely productive meeting, as she had reams of notes, both of positivity, and of things I could improve on. We discussed the possibility of having a rehearsed reading for the play, so that would be exciting. I am also waiting for feedback from Tinderbox, so when I get that, I shall return to the writing.

Finally, tomorrow we are starting rehearsals back for Incident at Vichy, which of course is being revived on 13th and 14th March in the Belfast Synagogue. It'll be great to get back into the play, and I can't wait to start back with the cast.

2 Feb 2011

Revival of Arthur Miller's Incident at Vichy in the Belfast Synagogue

Fringe Benefits are reviving Arthur Miller's Incident at Vichy at the Belfast Hebrew Congregation, Wolfson Centre on Sunday March 13th.

Following on from the sell out run of the Irish premiere in November 2010, popular demand, and a specific request from Jewish community in Belfast has meant the show has been revived as part of the Jewish Community festival.

This is great news for the company, and it will be great to get the show on again for all those who were unfortunately turned away at the door due to the high demand for tickets during our last run. The same high demand is expected again, and added to the fact that the tickets will be free, if you intend to go, ensure you get there early to avoid disappointment.

The Belfast Hebrew Congregation is in Wolfson Centre, 49 Somerton Road, BT15.

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.

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]

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

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 .

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.

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.

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.

15 May 2010

Workshops with Fringe Benefits

I am currently preparing for my second weekly workshop with Fringe Benefits Theatre Company in the Crescent Arts Centre.

My first was last Saturday, and I really enjoyed it. It was a vocal session with Anna Newell, and it gave me a lot of confidence in my vocal ability, even though it was all the singing was done in groups.

The workshops are four hours long, and hard work is expected of all participants, but this is encouraging, and the challenge maintains my ability at the highest level.

I am really looking forward to all the workshops now, and finding out my abilities and limitations.