Assorted Theatre Here and There

NB: If you live in the greater NYC area, read to the end for news of a Westchester show!

It is staggeringly impressive how you can turn a common or garden boozer into a posh venue when you spend a million pounds sterling. To experience this phenomenon I recommend The White Bear in Kennington, London, UK. What was a black box theatre downstairs is now a superior black box theatre upstairs. Downstairs you can get very good fish & chips and the back of the place has been knocked through and made into a bit of upmarket gentrification complete with micro-brewery ales.

We had just got off the plane from New York and went that evening to see the last night of Harry and Meghan – the fact that my old friend and sometime fellow-student, Michael Kingsbury, has run the place for the past 40 years, and done much to elevate the cause of interesting theatre on the London fringe was a motivating factor. A talented quartet delivering sketch comedy style satire. – Packed!

That was Saturday

On Monday we saw The Hills of California, the latest play from Jez Butterworth. It bears all the hallmarks of his work – snappy dialogue with mythological implications and references, tense drama, and high production values.

A powerhouse performance from Laura Donelly – I mean POWERHOUSE – I knew her in The Ferryman – and here she gives whole other dimensions in her work – quite amazingly impressive – not sure if it’s coming to Broadway.

That was Monday

On Wednesday we saw Uncle Vanya at The Orange Tree in Richmond. Very interesting from all sorts of point of view. Directed by the 80 year old Trevor Nunn, late of the RSC, the National and of course Cats which made him rich.

James Lance ( a very fine actor) in the title role was off, and we were told there would be a substitute who had almost no rehearsal and would be carrying the script.

Sadly I cannot tell you the name of this heroic actor. Not only did he not carry the script, his performance was superb. As was the whole production. All the Chekhov elements were there: pathos, bathos – texture, passion, terminal boredom, frustrated desire, and above all humor.

A young man who could have been playing Trofimov (the eternal student) in The Cherry Orchard was seated next to Trish. He admonished us for laughing. Not a surprise to be informed that he had a PHD in Theatre.

Where do you start with such people?

So we fled to Paris

There was an interlude with zero theatre – Rodin, Monet, The Tuileries –

Well we did go to the ballet one night, Don Quixote was the show – I must honestly confess that I had no idea of the story (and I have been in Man of La Mancha in Beijing), but it was of course ravishing on the eye, and breathtaking when you consider what some people can do with their bodies.

Another interlude on the south coast…

The lovely Polly Adams and family and a rogue hot water bottle.

Meanwhile in London …

Colin McPhillamy, Michael Shaw, Matilda Thorpe, Richard Fallon, Roy Drinkwater

Actors – lunch, drinks, coffee … chat

With David Verrey

… As above with Mark Carey

And then … The Picture of Dorian Grey at the Haymarket.

Again, another show with multiple points of interest. First off: it is a solo performance by Sarah Snook (you’ve seen her in Succession), produced initially in Sydney Australia. A staggering tour de force with some very inventive tech. If you are an actor reading this, I highly recommend it from a professional research and development point of view. The show is slated to come to Broadway.

Which brings me to episode 2 in My Guest Today.

Amelia Campbell and Anthony Akin talk to me about the new play What Keeps Us Going by Barbara Dana, to be directed by Austin Pendleton. The cast includes Amelia and Tony, Tim Jerome, and Karen Ziemba – Tony nominations abound!

The play opens May 24th and plays until June 9th at the Schoolhouse Theater in Croton Falls in Upper Westchester. Run do not walk to get tickets!



Hangmen delayed two years by the pandemic did finally open on Broadway to rave reviews just over a week ago. But the virus still lurks and the knock-on effect is that at this writing two of our actors are off.

Me as Harry Wade in Hangmen, photo by Anna Fleischle

Also meaning that two of our actors are on.

I am one of them.

Virus allowing I will be playing all next week Monday May 2nd thru Saturday May 7th 2022. Details and tickets here.


Broadway Is Back (and this blog)

After more than a year of this sort of activity …

… it has to be said that New York City is a bit of an assault on the senses. The decibels are way up. Take a taxi, a Lyft or and Uber and the state of the roads combined with the combat-driving technique that obtains in NYC and you get a thrill-ride, that shakes your corpuscles.

The late great Spike Milligan, the man who gave us The Goons, once wrote a satirical piece about traveling on the London Underground in the days when you could smoke cigarettes on busses, in cinemas, on planes and of course on tube trains “… and then to add to the commuters’ relief great clouds of stale cigarette smoke are pumped into the carriages…”

You know you’re in midtown Manhattan because of the distinctive sickly-sweet aroma of strong cannabis. Perhaps we’re all mildly stoned these days because of second hand smoke, and given the news maybe that’s a good thing. Aside from that, the improvised lean-to outdoor dining venues add exotic lights and have put 9th Avenue (where we are staying) into party mode.

Mainly though, it is excellent to be able to report that …

Among other shows To Kill A Mockingbird re-opened a couple of weeks ago at the Shubert Theatre on West 44th Street in New York City. And among other actors, that amazing Broadway veteran Patricia Conolly (full disclosure, she is known to me personally), seen here at the stage door about to go to work, resumes her role as Mrs Dubose.

I was at the dress rehearsal. It was a poignant occasion, 1700 people all in face masks, applauding nearly every entrance and giving the show an enthusiastic standing ovation.

And the show itself? One of the great classics of American literature seems more relevant now than ever.


Since the World Changed…

They 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.

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.

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.

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, 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 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.


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.