Author Archives: Colin McPhillamy

About Colin McPhillamy

An occasional blog about acting and other theatre stuff.

Since the World Changed…

IMG-2136.jpgThey closed the Golden Theatre on West 45th Street on Thursday 12th March, most of Broadway and off-Broadway following within a few hours. On Friday March 20th Hangmen was closed officially.

All that seems like a whole different long-time-ago time now. But then that’s what two weeks (today) of self-isolation can do for you.

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Actors are no strangers to being chucked out of work and sometimes suddenly too. But even the most seasoned of us has never been through this. Well that’s not quite true. As I mentioned in my previous post they closed the theatres down at the end of the 16th and in the early 17th centuries due to outbreaks of plague. And stories abound of touring companies being abandoned in far-flung parts because the manager absconded with the takings. That was in the bad old days before there was Equity, the actors’ union.

That’s me and Pete Bradbury up there in the top right. Below is a picture of me ready to step in to the role of Harry Wade, one of the Hangmen of the title. Posted here by kind permission of the production ‘cos sadly, although the chances were slim of you actually seeing me in the part, now the chances are zero.

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We were getting into top gear, both working on Broadway shows, my wife Trish in the acclaimed To Kill a Mockingbird – which had recently played to 18,000 high school kids in a sensational free performance at Madison Square Garden – and me in one that on paper at least had all the hit ingredients. This virus thing is more than inconvenient. Just saying.

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That’s Patricia Conolly with a dressing room selfie of Mrs Dubose.

So what’s to be done in this in-between moment? Well you can always read a great novel (or write one). The only Tolstoy novel I’ve read is Resurrection, so yes, maybe I will have a go at War and Peace… Or Moby Dick… or one of the longer Dickens…  The watercolors, the jig-saws, that coverlet you’ve always meant to crochet…

Talking of literature, P G Wodehouse can always be relied on for an amusing turn of phrase. Earlier today I came across this for example, “He uttered a sharp exclamation and gave a bound which, had he been a Russian dancer, would probably have caused the management to raise his salary.”

It may not look like much out of context and perhaps you had to be there, but it caused a lot of mirth in the Conolly/McPhillamy household to the extent that tense shoulders began to loosen and worry lines gave way to the creases of laughing smiles.

It does seem though that whatever you do, it really, really, REALLY is better not to go outside (except when deploying the newly minted social distancing for those essential journeys). So much so that this amusing little ballad – stop me if you’ve heard it before – seems now to be the summation of all wisdom currently available. (some vulgar language; viewer discretion advised).

I expect by now you’ve heard this one. But I’ll tell you again anyway…

Tweet: When Shakespeare was quarantined because of the plague he wrote King Lear.

Answering Tweet: I don’t need that kind of pressure.

Tweet: And he did it without toilet paper.

Talking of Nostradamus. It seems unlikely that I’ll be doing any acting anytime soon, so now’s the time to focus on my side hustle – yes, that right ASTROLOGY. You can see my astrological two cents worth here, or check out the rest of the site at http://www.GalacticFragment.com, and if you’re interested, and I fully acknowledge that astro is not to everyone’s liking – sidebar here: at one time I was on a quest to have a sensible conversation with a scientist about why astrology works. I didn’t pursue this very far because the few scientists I met would start edging towards the door as soon as I mentioned the art of celestial interpretation. I never even got as far as asking them about the implications of the recently discovered sub-atomic particle, the neutrino.

Be that as it might, for the duration of the lock-down I’m offering a chart reading at the deeply discounted price of… pay-what-you-wish. If you’re interested email me at Colin@galacticfragment.com. Something different perhaps? After all, there’s only so much Netflix you can watch…

I hope you’re ok and that you have good supplies of rice, beans, and tinned fish – oh and loo roll!

Even this shall pass away!

 

In 1593…

In the 1590s they closed the theatres in London because there were outbreaks of plague. The longest period of closure was from February 1593 for about a year when Philip Henslowe (you saw his character in Shakespeare in Love, played by Geoffrey Rush) was made to close the Rose Theatre.

Theatre people are not strangers to sudden changes in the continuity of work, and yesterday as I’m sure everyone knows by now, all Broadway theatres were ordered closed on the authority of the New York State governor, Andrew Cuomo.

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Me on hearing the news

The Broadway community of actors, musicians and other performers, technicians, stage mangers, front-of-house staff, box office, stage door, cleaners; as well as agents, lawyers, designers, directors, choreographers, general managers, producers, publicists, critics, and others; as well as all the local auxiliary businesses – bars, restaurants – physical therapists … it amounts to several hundred thousand people in our immediate community, and of course the ripples will go far beyond that.

And what about the patrons from far and wide and all the $$$ they bring?

So; the usual personal question when a gig comes to a scheduled end, “Will I ever work again?”, when the hiatus – (no one has said it’s the end yet), comes as a shock, although somewhat expected, the question now becomes one for the global collective, “WTF IS GOING ON?!?”

Having said that: Hangmen was in previews, and performances of this truly fascinating play were going brilliantly. Let’s hope we can bounce back. Watch this space for updates.

Learning the Ropes

Broadway in New York City snakes through midtown like an uncoiled length tossed casually across a grid. It creates wedges: one at the Flatiron building on 23rd Street, and another at Times Square at 42nd Street the one-time-and-forever centre of the known entertainment universe.

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In these “interesting times” where we live, now and then I get an intuitive confirmation of the impressive prescience of certain twentieth century novelists; my latest was olfactory. Aldous Huxley gave us Brave New World – he sure was right about genetic engineering – but do you remember the scene in the book where there is a public protest? The authorities rock up and instead of laying about the populus with strong arms as in cruder locales, they merely pump “soma”, the happy gas, into the vicinity. And while they are doing it they play a soothing voice-over.

“Friends… friends… friends” croons the voice in a tone at once loving and mildly, fraternally, disappointed by the disharmony. The public is soon quieted. Today in real-world Manhattan the streets of midtown are filled with the sickly-sweet skunk-imitator scent of cannabis leaves burning quietly, and undoubtedly to some of us it brings a welcome oblivion.

Orwell was another one. He had it right too, the Big Brothers who presently rule territories East and West are watching you, and some are more equal than others, while the telescreen is the Colosseum, and the public mind marches toward total biddability as Fact, Ethics and Truth are lost in the oubliette of Opinion and the soothing-stimulating somatic-discourse that calls itself “News”. Plato was right after all (when a society seeks the Good above the True – it’s over) and it’s only taken a couple of thousand years to prove it.

By the way, George Orwell wrote an at-close-quarters account of a hanging that happened in Burma (Myanmar) when he was a civil servant there. He was struck by how the condemned man side-stepped a puddle on the way to the gallows.

Along the side streets of midtown there are theatres. They cling to Broadway like barnacles on a submarine cable and claim its name. From them you may purchase entertainment.

Is there a difference between entertainment and art?

“Our job,” says a senior advertising executive to a colleague in the 1980s TV dramady Thirtysomething, “is to give people faith in their leaders, comfort in the purchase of consumer durables and security in the belief that there is absolutely nothing wrong.”

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Last week I joined the company of Hangmen by Martin McDonagh. I stand by for Mark Addy, an actor of extraordinary calibre and absolutely outstanding in the role of Harry. The show previews Feb 28th, opens March 19th.

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And if you do see it, will it give you any somatic relief from the chafing-on-the-nerves challenge of being alive in these “interesting times”?

I doubt it.

The author, Martin McDonagh, is on record as saying he had no intention for a play-of-message as he wrote it. Even so, the show is confronting. It’s very funny. State-sanctioned murderous use of hempen weave – what could be funnier? But if you laugh, soon after you are likely to think “What kind of person laughs at this?!?

I’ll call that art.

Stop Press – London Assurance Extension

A short sweet note to say that after the aforementioned ‘money review’ in the Wall Street Journal by Terry Teachout, our initial run of London Assurance has sold out.

We’ve extended for two weeks. Performances from 01/29 thru 02/09. Tickets are going fast…

 

The Power of the Press

I’ve been posting too frequently lately. After this update. I shall resume a sedate once-a-month-if-that routine. It’s the bushfires in Australia that have me so riled. A national emergency and an international crisis – anyway enough of that and plenty of my opinion in previous posts.

Meanwhile…

The astonishing power of a good review in a major newspaper…!

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From left to right: Those splendid actors Elliot Joseph, Evan Zes, Ian Holcomb, Brian Keane, Caroline Strang, and some portly bloke down right in the frame… photo by Carol Rosegg. 

We opened on the 15th December to some frankly glowing feedback from (in my opinion) a group of enlightened, perceptive, life-affirming critics in several publications and blogs of the greater NYC area. Except the mighty New York Times, where the opinion was at best mildly positive, but not enough to make you want to mash your smartphone and get on to the box office at the Irish Rep 212 727 2737

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The wonderful Rachel Pickup and, quoting from the New York Theatre Guide: “Colin McPhillamy … He plays it all for fun even launching his considerable girth in surprising leaps that recall a vaudevillian’s trick.”

Consequently our business was a very respectable 80% to 90%, nice, but with comedy it’s even nicer when you can’t get a seat.

Then…

Almost two weeks later Terry Teachout published his review in the Wall Street Journal. A rave. Sidebar: the WSJ may require you to subscribe to access the full review, my recommendation is just to come and see the show instead!

The phones began to ring off the hook. We are now almost sold out for the rest of the run. We’re due to close 01/26 and if you did plan to see the show, please organize a ticket before they put up the HOUSE FULL signs!

Happy New Year!

 

 

A Monologue You Will Never Hear

Happy New Year!

Among the many monologues you will never hear, we include this from the (Australian/American/British) – fill in the gap – (Prime Minister/President/Almost all senior officials) in public address.

“My fellow (Australians/Americans/Britons ) the time has come to admit that we have completely fucked it up. Our politics are uselessly toxic, and we are destroying the Earth.

Devastating and deadly floods and fires are on the increase the world over. We are now forced to confront what environmentalists have been attempting to bring to notice for more than fifty years. We of the ruling classes have hitherto chosen to distort, deny, delay, obfuscate, ridicule and in every way ignore the responsible warnings of scientists, conservationists and concerned citizens.

Beyond this, we have filled the airwaves with unending speeches of self-congratulatory lies and international xenophobic aggression while we knowingly continued to allow massive pollution and environmental degradation on all fronts, to the extent that the seas are dying and our food is toxic. We did this even when, especially when, feasible solutions were offered to us.

We in government have all had a complete change of heart. This is due to an outbreak of Common Sense, and we are now taking immediate action. Our measures will include:

Creation and distribution of 100% clean energy from wind, wave, solar, geo-thermal.

We realize this initiative will be met with resistance, in the aforementioned form of; distortion, denial, delay, obfuscation, and ignorance.

And lots of anger.

Why?

Because:

“Hell hath no fury like a vested interest masquerading as a moral principle.”

Middle-aged white men in positions of power who find themselves so enraged are referred to:

It merely remains for me to thank you for listening, I acknowledge that we never did that, and my resignation takes place with immediate effect.

Happy New Year.”