Category Archives: Acting

Don’t go Green go Emerald

In so many ways Ireland leads the way. Not least in their policy on clean energy. But I’m not here to talk about that.

Way back when I was in The Seafarer with a quartet of excellently robust actors, (the craic was mighty) I asked Mick Millamphy to give me a hand with the accent of County Armagh, significantly different from the Dublin sound we were going for then. I had an audition for The Ferryman. This is the transfer that originated at The Royal Court Theatre in London and then ran in the West End for almost a year and is now coming to Broadway with the original cast.

“Sure,” said Mick, “come over to Ryan’s Daughter (a bar on New York’s Upper East Side,  he was part owner) and we’ll work on it.”

I made my way to 85th Street and 1st avenue. It was a misty evening. A light drizzle was falling. Shape-shifters were out and about just past the corners of perception. As I entered this bar under an Irish flag (one of several in New York City), a pint of Guinness materialized in my left hand.

“Come up to the snug,” said Mick.

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Guinness continued to manifest about every quarter hour. Just before the preceding pint was finished. And here is the funny thing; I never saw it arrive. Mick and I chatted, discussing the idea that the job I was going for – understudying several roles in The Ferryman, an extraordinary play by Jez Butterworth – was distantly reminiscent of when governments subsidize farmers not to grow alfalfa. Getting paid for actively not acting. Although being ready, willing and able to do so, should someone twist an ankle.

At my age the capacity for Guinness is not what it once was. So although Mick’s company was highly agreeable, I had to slip away after about a gallon or two. We did spend a little time actually working on the accent and the next day I got the job. I started work last week. We preview October 2nd, open October 21st. Mick, I owe you.

The Ferryman tells an epic true story, but the play is threaded with mythology. I’m now convinced that selected newborns in Ireland are taken by the ankle and dipped in the river of Guinness that runs, with tributaries, through all of that magical land.

This isn’t (likely to be) happening

The late great Douglas Adams in his fabulously inventive ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” gave us “The Improbability Drive” as the motive power for nipping from interstellar points A or B to C, D, and beyond.

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Now we have improbability politics. If you haven’t seen it already, I recommend Gail Collins’s op-ed today (August 23rd 2018) in The New York Times in which she responds to a prospective film treatment which clearly comes from an alternative universe.

When Bill Bryson first published his Yank’s-eye-view-of-Australia in 2000 titled “Down Under” – in subsequent editions changed to “In a Sunburnt Country” – he pointed out that during the late 1990s the mighty New York Times published numbers of articles on Australia commensurate with those on Peru and Albania and far fewer than that in its reporting of Cambodia and Korea.

Much has changed since then, although I can personally attest to this turn-of-the-millenium ranking of general US interest in matters Australian. When I arrived in New York in 1999 you’d have been hard pressed to find a bottle of Jacob’s Creek Shiraz. Today of course, Aussie plonk can be had in any supermarket in any state in the Union. It is still somewhat rare though, to find even a theatrical professional whose ear can reliably discern the difference between an Australian and a British accent. New York is different, the place has, since the turn of the millennium been flooded with Aussie professionals, and Aussie meat pies and flat white (coffee) can be found in parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan.

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But today the New York Times has devoted part of its editorial page to current Australian political moves. Moves that leave improbability somewhere beyond the calculation of Pi (π). In brief, the current Aussie administration has abandoned previous modest efforts to take action on climate change. Notwithstanding that there is a State-wide drought in New South Wales, nor that the Great Barrier Reef is dying, nor that more sunshine falls on Australia than almost anywhere in the world…

By the way, I recommend Bryson’s book on Oz, in either title, not least because it contains about the funniest ever description of the game of cricket by one foreign to the game.

 

Nvbuunghh, ‘glaar’ghh

Nvbuunghh, ‘glaar’ghh is of course, the approximate sound of a foghorn in New London, Connecticut in 1912 where Eugene O’ Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night is set.

In our zero-attention-span-smart-phone times sitting through a play with the word ‘long’ in the title may be a challenge. Think of it as binge-watching a family drama which deals in a pre family-therapy era with the emotional undercurrents around denial in a desperate family situation. Anyone touched by the current opioid addiction epidemic will recognize the profoundly disturbing themes of the play.

It is slightly amazing that a theatre in a barn as far north in the USA as you can go without bumping into Canada can field this dark masterpiece immediately following that witty frivolity, The Importance of Being Earnest, with some of the same actors.

http://www.bagaducetheatre.com for details, where Trish Conolly, Broadway veteran (and full disclosure: my wife) has done it again, directing a splendid cast in a formidable production.

I reckon the planet Neptune has a lot to do with this play, if you’re interested in my take on that please go here for more…

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Talking of storytelling and the intuitive arts, when I was 19 I was given a deck of tarot cards. I had no idea what to do with them. But later I discovered number, color, seasonal, elemental, runic and other correspondences. The deck is an intuitive lens. Next Tuesday I will be talking about how the cards relate to the planets of the solar system. Get in touch with your inner woo-woo here.

Proud to be Australian

I’m half Australian and at this moment I’m very proud of it. Here’s why:

http://www.4ocean.com

A couple of Aussie surfers decided to make a difference. Oh and credit where due, it was a proud American who pointed this out to me with the gift of a bracelet.

I was on the way to Maine from New York City (where my wife Patricia has directed a very fine, very funny production of The Importance of Being Earnest. If you’re up this way http://www.bagaducetheatre.com for details), and I took in some fast food. The immediate cost to me was about $12 and the medical risks. The cost to the planet in plastic waste absurdly higher and more durable.

So at the micro-level of the individual, this was a piece of political and eco irresponsibility on my part and in many ways almost impossible to avoid given that our global mono-culture is in thrall to plastic.

At the macro-level political nonsense abounds, there are no limits to the appalling absurdities, callous cruelties, preposterous posturing, and general drongo* behaviour … well we all know that, right? After all:

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As usual Shakespeare gets there first. On tyrannical political power he says:

“Man, proud man, dressed in a little brief authority plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven as make the angels weep.”

As I get older the woo-woo perspective makes more sense. Your basic vote-chasing politico will go so far as to say we ought to be environmentally responsible for “future generations” – Well I’m not too sure that anyone is actually too bothered about these famous “future generations”. But what if …

What if the Hindus, the Buddhists, the Zoroastrians, the neo-pagans, the Platonists, the early Christians, your basic esotericist, quantum physics and Shakespeare (What is the opinion of Pythagoras concerning wild fowl?) all have a point, and we the present generation are more intimately connected to future ones than appears in three-dimensional linear space-time thinking?

Somewhere between the micro and the macro there is a remedy, one of many that we will need.

http://www.4ocean.com

For 20 bucks you can get a bracelet made from recycled materials and 1lb of plastic taken out of the seas.

It’s a start.

 

  • Drongo – Australian vernacular. Dozy f***wit, silly fellow, waste of space etc…

Five go Drinking in the Underworld

If Enid Blyton had written The Seafarer (reviews here) I’m pretty sure that is the title she would have come up with.

200px-Scotland_relief_location_mapOne time I was involved in a World War 1 play. The set was an abstract of sand bags and scaffolding and we were invited to play at the St. Magnus Festival on The Orkney Islands north of the northern tip of Scotland across the Pentland Firth, one of the most treacherous stretches of water in the navigable seas.

We drove a van up the length of Britain from London to Thurso all through the night, and at an early hour before the sun came up one of the company filled the gas tank with diesel, not petrol, and we came to a full stop on a lonely road just about dawn. The highway services came to our rescue but we lost 2 hours in the confusion.

We reached Thurso (as far north-east as you can go in Scotland) to see the ferry which we had booked to take our set and costumes steaming out of the harbour.

What was to be done?

Our entrepreneurial assistant director was off round the moorings and he cut a deal with a fisherman to take us and our sandbags and scaffolding across the Pentland Firth in an open boat. The fee was £50, and “all the beer I can drink”.

Fortunately word of this madness reached the harbour-master and he immediately put a stop to it, otherwise I would be writing this from the sea-bed. We were able to re-book our berths on the next ferry but logistics meant there was no room for our set. So we abandoned the aforementioned scaffolding and sandbags (which we had transported the length of the country), repacked our costumes into suitcases and, catching the next ferry, gave our performance in the Festival on time.

Every now and there’s a stand out gig in an actor’s progress (to say career would be too loose a use of that word). The Seafarer was such a one for me.  Great role, great cast (yes, the five who go drinking, ah lads…), great company – the Irish Rep, a brilliant triumph, as all theatres are, of the improbable over the impossible. Huge thanks and kudos to Charlotte Moore and Ciaran O’ Reilly, co-founders, and to all who work there.

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Mick Mellamphy as Ivan, Colin McPhillamy as Richard in

The Seafarer at The Irish Rep. Photo Carol Rosegg

Tangentially and speaking of the sea and of ferries… I’m delighted to say that in September I will join the company of The Ferryman, a London transfer to Broadway. In a later blog I will disclose details of the patentable Mick Mellamphy Magical Method which assisted me to this forthcoming gig.

Big thanks too, to Carol Brennan  who writes pacey, spicy crime fiction, for letting me crash on the sofa bed in the funky East Village when the commute got out of hand!

Next stop far north-eastern Maine and the Bagaduce Theatre – as far north-east as you can go without hitting Canada and New Brunswick where my maternal great-grandmother was born and at a young age in her early adult life as an actress sailed to Australia under a seven year contract to J C Williamson, theatrical producer, but that’s another story.

 

 

A Real Blogger?

My third post in as many weeks?!: I may be in danger of becoming a real blogger!

My second Irish play in 12 months: … and although I estimate the Irish to be a magical people … a real actor? I think it unlikely, after all … “the best in this kind are but shadows.”

The Seafarer

I come by Irish connection honestly. My maternal great-great-grandfather emigrated from Dublin to Sydney in 1860 and in 1816 others in my maternal line were transported to Australia for making pot’een (whiskey) without a license. A manufacture that I call a service, not a crime.

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Half my blood is Celtic.

Tickets available here

Great play, great cast. Tickets going fast.