Next Up

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

30 May 2017

Finding pieces of yourself everywhere!

Just a quick entry about the fact that I was researching one of the locations for None Of That podcast, and came across this blog by an Italian writer.

http://www.bohemianwanderer.com/en/2014/08/serendipita-bookfinders-cafe-bookshop-a-belfast/

15 May 2017

The Odd Couple (2012): One of 20th Century Theatre's enduring crowd-pleasers.

𝕺ne of the more successful productions I was involved in, as far as consistently high bums to seats ratio was The Odd Couple in 2012. It was directed by Mary Lindsay, who I had worked with previously during the rehearsed reading for Sitting Up for Michael. She was so perfect in the role of Doris, it tore me up that she was about twenty years too young for the part when it came to staging. 

17 Apr 2014

★★★★★ Five star review in The Irish World!

Today's Irish World features a five star review for C.L.G./Sitting Up for Michael in it's print edition. Obviously we are all delighted, and congratulations in particular must go to Sharron Byrne, Janette McManus and Fintan Dineen who were singled out for praise!

Here's the full article.

Make sure you don't miss out on this Five Star show! Book your tickets now!

C.L.G./Sitting Up for Michael Double Bill is debuting in the White Bear Theatre, London from April 8-27. Tickets are on sale now from TicketSource.

10 Apr 2014

First review for C.L.G./Sitting Up for Michael is in! ★★★★ Four stars from Remote Goat!

Our first review of C.L.G./Sitting Up for Michael is in! Remote Goat has given our production 4 stars, and particularly commended the performances of Sharron Byrne as Frieda and Peter Dineen as Billy.

Sharron Byrne in her lauded performance as Frieda.
They particularly enjoyed the frantic pace and "very funny" writing in C.L.G., which has never been viewed by an audience before.

Peter Dineen's performance as Billy was singled out by Remote Goat
C.L.G./Sitting Up for Michael Double Bill is debuting in the White Bear Theatre, London from April 8-27. Tickets are on sale now from TicketSource

5 Apr 2014

C.L.G./Sitting Up For Michael 2014 - Interview with the cast and crew (video)

The cast and crew of C.L.G./Sitting Up for Michael discuss the upcoming double bill.

C.L.G. 
Two members of rival GAA clubs have been locked in a room until they can decide on a neutral venue for their upcoming match. It'll be the first time the two teams will have met for nine years, and some old scores have been long to heal. Will the dastardly Sam trick his way to getting the venue he wants, or can the put-upon Lory hold fast? They'd need to hurry up though - Fair City will be on soon.

Sitting Up for Michael
Michael's died. Who's going to do the readings? Will there be a lock-in at Packie's? Why did he only get twenty Mass Cards? It's a wil' handlin' altogether. The family and friends of Michael Montague gather for the sit up on the eve of his funeral. Set in contemporary county Tyrone, James McAnespy's comedy explores themes of family, separation and hidden pasts. So don't open the brandy until tomorrow. Brian, Michael's stubborn son, bickers relentlessly with his sister Frieda who has just come down from Belfast and starts ruling the roost as usual. Their neighbour Doris offers her support and a hot pot of tea. Young Rory, who reaches for a drink a little too readily is there to see Joe, whose coming down on the University bus, with a girl he just met - but she's got more to hide than she's letting on.

The White Bear Theatre
138 Kennington Park Road London SE11 4DJ Tube: Kennington (Northern Line). Turn left out of the station along the main road and the White Bear is on the right hand side. Bus: 3, 59, 133, 155, 159, 414

Tickets: £14/£10 concession (no booking fee) available from http://ift.tt/QTGWPy or on door (subject to availability)
Web: www.kingsfool.net
Twitter: @kings_fool
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/KingsFoolNI


C.L.G./Sitting Up for Michael Double Bill is debuting in the White Bear Theatre, London from April 8-27. Tickets are on sale now from TicketSource

29 Mar 2014

Sitting Up for Michael rehearsal photos

Janette McManus, Paul Christian Rogers, James McAnespy
Janette McManus
Paul Christian Rogers, Peter Dineen, Fintan Dineen

Sharron Byrne, James McAnespy

Sharron Byrne, James McAnespy

Sharron Byrne, James McAnespy

Emma Spence, Fintan Dineen, James McAnespy

Janette McManus, Paul Christian Rogers

James McAnespy

The full cast of Sitting Up for Michael

The full cast of Sitting Up for Michael

Janette McManus, Paul Christian Rogers, Emma Spence, Sharron Byrne, James McAnespy

Director Alex Howarth

Emma Spence, Sharron Byrne

Janette McManus, James McAnespy, Sharron Byrne, Peter Dineen

Fintan Dineen, James McAnespy

Peter Dineen, James McAnespy

Paul Christian Rogers, James McAnespy, Peter Dineen, Sharron Byrne

Laura Duffy took these fantastic rehearsal pictures of Sitting Up for Michael, featuring our entire cast and director, Alex Howarth.

C.L.G./Sitting Up for Michael Double Bill is debuting in the White Bear Theatre, London from April 8-27. Tickets are on sale now from TicketSource

20 Jun 2012

Sitting Up for Michael a runaway success! All Ireland Arts Conference 2012

The run of Sitting Up for Michael ended with aplomb in The Alley Arts Centre, Strabane, with over 130 people coming down to see us. It was another fantastic turnout and the tour ended with over 500 people attended five performances!

I'm taking some time to regroup now, and see where I'll take King's Fool Productions next - there are a few avenues open at the minute, so it's just time to take stock of the options open to me.

I also was able to attend the All Ireland Arts Conference in the fantastic Lyric Theatre this past weekend. It was co-organised by Theatre Forum, Northern Ireland Theatre Association and Audiences NI. The first of the keynote speakers was Ben Cameron of the world famous Ted Talks, whose rousing opening speech had the the entire congregation in thrall - I swear he could have started a revolution in that room if he wanted. Next up was dance guru Farooq Chaudhry who has mastered turning art into business without sacrificing integrity. Finally Helen Marriage spoke of her experiences shutting down London to bring renowned French artists Royal de Luxe to the capital's streets with their gargantuan production The Sultan's Elephant. She spoke of years of negotiating rerouting traffic and street fixtures with sceptical city officials who were eventually won over by the scale and positivity of the final piece. It was heart-swelling seeing the public's reaction to the event, and I only wish I had been in London to see the event in person. All the keynote speakers were hugely inspiring and have spurned me on to emulate the sheer size and scope of their visions with my own work and King's Fool. Of course there were other events as well, most notably the drinks reception in the City Hall (transported via open top tour bus), followed by a barbeque buffet in the Ramada Encore (only dampened by Ireland's dismal performance against Spain in the Euros) and an intimate musical performance with the inimitable Duke Special and Julie Feeney. Overall it was an amazing performance, and reminded me why it was I chose to follow this life as an artist.

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.

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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

11 Apr 2012

Sitting Up for Michael and The Odd Couple - A busy May!

This month I am going into the busiest month of 2012 so far as I'll be embarking on two stage productions, my own Sitting Up for Michael and Skewiff Theatre Productions' version of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple. 
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The Odd Couple, which is being directed by Mary Lindsey, who was in the rehearsed reading of ...Michael, is part of this year's Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, and is one of the Belfast Telegraph's picks of the festival. It's incredible I get to be part of the festival, as it has been a huge success over the years, and this year proves to be no different, with talent such as Rachel Austin, The Rubberbandits, and Dylan Moran just a tiny fraction of the entertainment on offer. The cast for the quick fire comedy is appropriately enough comprised largely of stand up comedians, led by Joe Lindsey and Morgan Hearst as the eponymous Couple, with support from Christian Jackson (who was in Incident at Vichy with me), Griffin Madill, Ruaidhrí Ward, Monnine Dargan and Emma McErlean. The play will be on in the Dark Horse Cafe from May 9 -12 and tickets can be purchased here.
While that is going on, I will also be in rehearsals with ...Michael, which is set to tour across the province in May and into June, but I will discuss that in a future post.

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!

20 Jul 2011

Performing in the Ulster Hall with Accidental Theatre

Tonight I'll be appearing in the Ulster Hall (Group Room) as a cast member of Robots in Disguise, the first of the Biscuit Tin Readings. Rehearsals have been ongoing since Saturday, with a great cast of Ed Boyd, Emma Little, Kim Moylan and Chris McCurry, and Emily DeDakis reading stage directions, with Gayle Dennison directing. It's always great fun working with Accidental, as they have that unneutered enthusiasm of a young company that generates such great energy and creativity.

The play, by Mike Coleman, is about the toxic effect of top down government interference on people's every day live. I play Howard Chubb, the slimy weasel tasked with auditing the Smith famliy.

The entry is free, and will be a great opening to the program, which will go right through summer, finishing with my own Sitting Up For Michael, in November.

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.