Tag Archives: Colin McPhillamy

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…!

Elliot-Joseph-Evan-Zes-Ian-Holcomb-Brian-Keane-Colin-McPhillamy-and-Caroline-Strang-in-the-2019-production-of-LONDON-ASSURANCE-at-Irish-Rep-Photo-by-Carol-Rosegg-1024x683 2.jpg

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

Rachel-Pickup-and-Colin-McPhillamy-in-the-2019-production-of-LONDON-ASSURANCE-at-Irish-Rep-Photo-by-Carol-Rosegg-1024x683-1.jpg

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!

 

 

London Assurance at The Irish Rep

From a theatre history point of view London Assurance is unique. Dion Boucicault wrote it in three weeks in 1841. He was twenty. Some sources give his age as eighteen at the time.

That’s me sliding into character in the dressing room

The human Dionysus Boucicault captured some of the Dionysian spirit and poured it in this soufflé of a play. A piece which might also be called a keggeree, or a bubble-and-squeek. There are multiple overt and inferred Shakespearean references and themes, not to mention the derivation from Restoration and Carolinian drama generally. But then, if you were twenty (or eighteen) and had three weeks to write a play what would you do?

With the incomparably fabulous Rachel Pickup in rehearsal

Such derivative literary technique is time-honored of course. Shakespeare never bothered with an original plot as is well known, and looking forward through the 1800s, Oscar Wilde and Brandon Thomas evince traces of Boucicault – certainly Noel Coward in the 20th century took a minor character from London Assurance and made him famous as “Sollox” in Private Lives.

And the same moment, or just before, in performance

It’s always a vexed question for an actor as to whether to read reviews when the play opens. On this occasion I did. The press… well you can see for yourself at http://www.irishrep.org

Kudos to my fellow cast members, to numerous to list here but again, details at http://www.irishrep.org. Each of the actors I’m privileged to work with on this one, brings a lively inventiveness and vivid reality, helmed by the ever-creative Charlotte Moore, founder member of the Irish Rep, which translates to a sublime couple of hours in the theatre – Geez, I’m writing my own review here – reminds me of the famous dialogue between Anthony Sher when he played Richard III and Michael Caine who saw a performance.

Caine: And what about those reviews?!

Sher: Oh, I don’t read reviews.

Caine: Read ’em! You fuckin’ wrote ’em, didn’t you?

I am delighted to report that the show is selling well, we play thru January 26th 2020. The play among other things is an entertainment-antidote to the current state of world affairs, and I am able to write the time-honored marketing phrase, “Book now to avoid disappointment.” And just in case you missed it: London Assurance, directed by Charlotte Moore, tickets at http://www.irishrep.org

 

Nicely Busy

That young actress Patricia Conolly is back on Broadway, she gave her first performance as Mrs Debose yesterday in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD with the new cast at the Shubert Theatre with Ed Harris now playing Atticus Finch. Tickets are available at mind-numbing Broadway rates.

I haven’t seen the show yet, but judging by the audience response as I heard the last few lines of the play from the stage door, it sounds as if the price of admission might be justified. Understand that I say this as one whose first theatre-going set me back about 30 pence (50 cents), not the mortgage it takes today.

Meanwhile, in another part of the forest, or as we say here in NYC, Off-Broadway, I am rehearsing LONDON ASSURANCE at The Irish Rep. I’m playing Sir Harcourt Courtly a character descended from a long line of fops. There’s a puff piece here where you’ll also see a picture of the wonderful Rachel Pickup playing the unforgettably-named, Lady Gay Spanker.

That’s Simon Russell Beale in the 2010 National Theatre production.

Sir Harcourt Courtly has been personated by such giants of the stage as Donald Sinden in the legendary 1970, West End and Broadway production, and Brian Bedford 1997, Broadway and Stratford Ontario 2006.

I worked with Brian Bedford twice. He was a master at light comedy. One time I backed him into a corner and asked him to tell me his secrets, “Brian!” I said, “How do you do it!?! I have to know!” Brian gave it a little thought in that slightly puzzled quizzical manner which was one of his comic modes and finally said, modestly, “Well I don’t really know.” He did know of course, but in common with others of unusual ability, he knew it wasn’t a thing to be discussed. Why? Because that’s not what it’s for. And nothing lets the steam out of the bottle before the soufflé rises so surely as casual talk – so I had to be satisfied by just watching him. Which I did. But if Brian wishes to whisper any tips to me now that he’s playing the great stages in the sky, he’s more than welcome.

Tix at the Rep will set you back a manageable amount and they are available here. It’s a holiday show. We open December and play through January and I hear there’s a nice advance, so please book soon if you plan to come.

A big shout out to two colleagues of Irish Rep fame, Mick Mellamphy and Tim Ruddy, two of the lads who were also in THE SEAFARER with me, Andy Murray and Matthew Broderick at The Rep a couple of years back.

Matthew Broderick and Andy Murray in The Seafarer at the Irish Rep 2017

Mick performs and Tim directs THE CURE, tix here, and for the price of a couple of pints. It’s bare bones, storytelling magic at its best. Mick turns in a virtuoso performance with nothing much behind him in terms of set. Doesn’t matter, not needed.

He takes you to Cork and back.

Even Actors go on Holiday

Before we left we noticed that everyone we told we were going to Barcelona had something to say along the lines of: “Oh, it’s great, you’ll love it.” And now we can say that too.

There’s the oddly named Hotel REC, which I wholeheartedly recommend, is situated close by the Arc de Triomf. The entire staff is extra friendly and helpful, and the cool design of the building on an oddly shaped footprint includes a roof terrace with views over the old part of the city.

We did the Gaudi Basillica of course, we did the Picasso museum,  which inspired a self-portrait.

We strolled in the parks and the wide tree-lined boulevards. One evening we went to the beach when I ordered a dish of langoustine, a challenging gastronomic adventure.

There was a seaside moment, this was L’escala. Could have stayed longer. Next time.

 

And a hotel we didn’t stay at with this perfect Romeo and Juliet balcony but, alas, too many flights of stairs, no elevator…

… and a hotel we did stay at:

And we took the occasional mysterious alleyway

We went to the confusingly named “City Hall” – which is neither a hall, nor in the least any kind of civic centre. It is in fact a tired old theatre reminiscent of some of the gloomier London fringe venues or some off-off Broadway space. There was long dimly lit corridor and starts to a basement. It was lit with very low level red-light and some sort of automatic, dancing follow spot and some pretty average sangria was included in the price of admission.

We were there to see “Authentic Flamenco”, and from the surroundings we did not expect much. But then…
The show lasted about an hour. Four men, two women including one guitarist. The other three men each sang, one danced, and everyone supplied percussive accompaniment with syncopated hand-clapping. They began slowly and softly, but then each of the dancers took a solo turn.
It was spectacular. Physically the dancing included gymnastics, ballet, tap, tango, and sculpture.
But emotionally… sudden flares of passion, equally sudden moments of poise and stillness. Contrasting and instant states of fierce pride, disdain, seduction, invitation, flirtation, challenge, devotion.
It was enthralling, hard to believe that human beings can move like that.
Oh and before all that we were sequestered for a week in an ancient villa in the hills where there was a terrace with views and a gathering of astrologers. More here.

Continue reading

A Prince Among Men

They will dim the lights on Broadway in honor of the passing of Hal Prince. Mr. Prince’s many achievements and his collection of honors will be well documented in many publications, and there will be tributes of all kinds in all media, to which I add my own small and oblique one here.

th

I never met Mr. Prince, but I knew him to be an extraordinary man of theatre, outstanding in his courtesy. I’ll tell you why.

Because he wrote back to me.

No fewer than three times.

Each time by return of post.

When I arrived in New York in 1999, I put up a one-man show in an off-off-Broadway space in the upper 50s on 8th Avenue.

Naturally I sent mailing pieces to as many industry professionals as I could find addresses for, while developing a monologue with which I hustled the discount seekers in Times Square in the manner of one of the too-many performers at the Edinburgh Festival. An excerpt would be:

“Nicole Kidman naked live onstage! – Not in this show, but it’s a matter of global importance that you see it tonight!”

Among the many postage stamps in which I invested, one was fixed to a postcard addressed to Mr. Prince whom I knew by reputation of course. He knew me not at all, not enough to distinguish me from a bar of soap.

Hal Prince wrote a personal card back. By return of post. Let me say that again.

By return of post.

He regretted not being able to see the show and he wished me well with it. This exercise was repeated three times. Each time, I confidently expected that he would file my postcards in the bin and ignore them. But no, each time a personal hand-written message came back with a polite regret and an explanation of his other commitments.

It’s difficult to convey how extraordinary this is. And what an outstanding example of good manners way beyond usual practice in theatre circles. For example:

When I graduated from the Central School in Britain some time back in the last millennium I wrote to each of the 120 repertory theatres in the country (of which about 30 remain). I filed their word-processed rote-replies under F.O.A.D.

I wrote to the head of casting at the RSC once a week for two years, eventually I was granted a general interview (not an audition, that never came), where the opening gambit was, “Now, have you written to me?”

How to describe this astonishing attention to detail from a man well known to be a workaholic and one of the giants of the business? And which, by the way was hugely encouraging to a struggling actor trying to come to notice.

I think the phrase I want is: noblesse oblige

STOP PRESS!

April 1st 2019 — mcphillamy actorblog still ABSOLUTELY FREE!!!

INK will tour to MARS

Solar system debut now confirmed!

 “Terrestrial culture important on inner planets,” says congressperson in funding debate.

Aliens give hour-long standing ovation! Win a one-way ticket to Jupiter! Your postcard from Mercury — no-risk delivery ABSOLUTELY FREE!!! 

Plus: Special feature how to date a Venusian (and live)!

Catch INK while still local!!!

1st Preview tomorrow 04/02/19 Friedman Theatre West 47th St, NYC, USA, EARTH.

 And Much Much More! All in INK! 1St preview tomorrow!!!