Born Belfast 1930
Durable and skilful character actor with a long history in Belfast theatre, beginning with her involvement with the venerable Group Players at the start of the fifties. Her debut in Ruddick Millar’s Belfast set family drama ‘What’s Bred in the Bone’ in 1951, proved successful enough for the company to cast her in further productions later that year.
She played Effie, in Janet McNeill’s ‘Signs and Wonders’ and in the JR Mageean/Ruddick Millar comedy ‘Arty’, appeared as Susan Craig, in a sumptious cast, which featured amongst others, Elizabeth Begley, JG Devlin and Harold Goldblatt. Other work with the Group during the early fifties included, St John Greer Ervine’s well structured comedy ‘My Brother Tom’ 1952, Jack Loudan’s politically slanted satire, ‘A Lock of the General’s Hair’ and another Greer Ervine piece, ‘Ballyfarland’s Festival’, both 1953.
A period off the radar ended with the role of Susan Bradford in Sam Thompson’s minor classic ‘The Evangelist’, at the Grand Opera House, Belfast in 1963. In the eighties she appeared intermittently at the Lyric Belfast, most notably in Martin Lynch’s ‘Minstrel Boys’ 1985 and played Lady Jedburgh in a decent production of Wilde’s machiavellian comedy, ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’ 1986. A very minor role as Mrs Fleck in writer/director Peter Ormrod’s estimable Irish produced comedy ‘Eat the Peach’ 1986, marked her first big screen appearance but she would wait a further twelve years for a second big screen opportunity.
In 1987, at the Guildhall Derry, in a Field Day production of Stewart Parker’s last play ‘Pentecost’, she produced a memorable performance as the ghost of fiercely proud protestant, Lily Matthews, whose spirit still presides over events at her house amidst the backdrop of the loyalist workers strike of 1974. In Galway at the end of the decade, she joined an excellent cast for the Druid Theatre Company’s revival of Brian Friel’s ‘Lovers’ 1989 and made her small screen debut that year as Kitty, in William Trevor’s drama ‘Beyond the Pale’, followed by a reprise of her role as Lily in a 1990 television adaptation of ‘Pentecost’. A return to the Lyric in 1991 saw her cast in functional roles in two well received productions, Ron Hutchinson’s compelling ‘Pygmies in the Ruins’ and Frank McGuinness’ faithful adaptation of Lorca’s ‘The House of Bernarda Alba’.
Her television output the same year was a little more industrious and included small parts in three localised BBC plays, Barry Devlin’s ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’, the rural Irish murder mystery ‘Events at Drimaghleen’ and the troubles spoof, ‘Arise and Go Now’. In the Lyric’s 1998 premiere of Gary Mitchell’s period drama, ‘Tearing the Loom’, she sparkled as Mid-Ulster matriarch Anne Moore and again at the Lyric in 2000, she took the role of Missus Doyle in Brian Foster’s debut play ‘The Butterfly of Killybeggs’. The following year at the Edinburgh Festival she was nominated and deservedly won the Irish Times ESB Best Actress Award for her performance as senile grandmother Dophie, in Morna Regan’s intense family drama ‘Midden’, presented at the city’s Traverse Theatre. She followed this success with two finely tuned characterizations on the Dublin stage in 2002, with the role of Peggy in the emotive ‘Stolen Child’ at the Andrews Lane Theatre and at the Gaeity provided great support in Tom Murphy’s ‘Conversations on a Homecoming’, starring fellow Northerners Adrian Dunbar and Conleth Hill.
A recurring role as Mrs Stapleton in the Dublin set medi-series ‘The Clinic’ from 2003/05, raised her profile a notch and in between in only her third film in sixteen years, she appeared fleetingly in director Terry Loane’s engaging comedy drama ‘Mickybo And Me’ 2004. Now approaching her mid-sixties and seemingly in the best form of her career, she once again attracted critical acclaim with her portrayal of the Old Woman in Tinderbox’s 2004 touring production of Michael Duke’s effusive drama ‘Revenge’, for which she received a TMA nomination. In 2007 she was involved in several projects across the media, with a guest role in the RTE series ‘Kilnaskully’, a small part in director Tom Shankland’s forgettable horror film ‘W Delta Z’ and on stage undertook an Irish tour with the compilation piece, ‘Bog People’. From 2011 she enjoyed a relative profusion of screen work, which included on the button big screen credits as the hypochondriacal Peggy in Thaddeus O’Sullivan’s mid 1950’s, Tipperary set ‘Stella Days’, starring Martin Sheen and as Mamie in the horror/comedy ‘Grabbers’, both 2012.
Barbara Adair’s career in theatre, which has spanned six decades, placed her first with the Group Players, then at the height of their considerable powers, through the slog of anonymous English repertory to contemporary Irish theatre and eventually the entitlement of respect her ability merits.
Other Theatre, Film and TV credits:
– The Seasons Greetings (1953) Group Theatre, Belfast
– Culture Vultures (1988) Lyric Theatre, Belfast
– The Private Picture Show (1994) Lyric Theatre, Belfast
– Christmas Eve Can Kill You (2002) Lyric Theatre, Belfast
– Divorcing Jack (1998)
– Amongst Women (1998), Primeval(2011), The Life and Times of Nick Nickleby(2012), Quirke(2014)
Max Adrian (Bor)
Born Enniskillen 1st November 1903
Died Wilford, England 19th January 1973
Effusive, Rathbonesque, old school thespian, who in his later years presented as a lord of RADA with a voice of matching authority, firmly entrenching himself in theatre from his early twenties. He first appeared on the London stage as an extra in the musical play ‘ Katja The Dancer ‘ in 1925 and made his full West End debut in Jean Bart’s drama ‘ The Squall ‘ in 1927. Shortly afterwards he worked with regional repertory companies in Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire where he cut his teeth in a variety of productions, before returning to London in 1930 with a supporting role in ‘ The Best Of Both Worlds ‘ at the Palace Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue.
1934 proved a critical period in his career with his appearance as Albert Arnold in Terence Rattigan’s comedy ‘ First Episode ‘ staged first at the Comedy Theatre, London and later that year at the Ritz Theatre on Broadway. It also marked his introduction to the screen with a central role as Julian Leigh in director Reginald Denham’s romantic drama,’ The Primrose Path’. For the remainder of the thirties he worked solidly in both theatre and films, where in particular he was cast primarily in comedic roles, most notably in ‘ A Touch Of The Moon ‘ 1936 and ‘ When The Devil Was Well ‘ 1937. His stage profile was raised a notch with two sterling performances at the Westminster Theatre, London in 1938, in George Bernard Shaw’s ‘ The Doctor’s Dilemma’ and Eugene O’Neill’s comedy ‘ Marco Millions ‘. Adrian’s penchant for comedy gave him opportunities in further light-hearted films in the early forties, most notably Carol Reed’s ‘Kipps’ 1941 and ‘ Talk about Jacqueline’ 1942.
He did however begin to display his superior side in historical dramas such as director Lance Comfort’s ‘Penn of Pennsylvania’ and with Reed again in ‘ The Young Mr. Pitt ‘ both 1942. Despite his relative cinematic success he secured just one other worthwhile part in the forties, taking the role of the Dauphin in Laurence Olivier’s masterwork ‘ Henry V ‘ in 1944. He had no such problems on the West End stage, with prominent roles in the revue ‘ Light And Shade ‘ at the Ambassadors Theatre in 1942, the John Gielgud directed ‘ Love For Love ‘ at the Phoenix Theatre in 1943 and with Joyce Grenfel starred in another revue, ‘ Tuppence Coloured ‘ staged at the Globe Theatre in 1947.
Following two minor roles in Basil Dearden’s atmospheric crime thriller, ‘Pool of London’ 1951 and Noel Langley’s ‘ The Pickwick Papers’ 1952, he found himself back on familiar ground in Laurier Lister’s hugely successful satirical revue ‘Airs on a Shoestring’ at the Royal Court in 1953, which also starred Betty Marsden and Dennis Quilley. 1956 saw him at the Martin Beck Theatre on Broadway in the Tyrone Guthrie directed comic operetta ‘Candide’ and on the strength of it’s success, was offered undemanding token Brit roles on US television, where gravitas seemed to be the only requirement. Unfortunately his three year US sojourn proved unsuccessful, as he was unable to land a major studio deal, which would have given him international exposure and in late 1959 he decided to return to England. Joining Peter Hall’s RSC, he appeared in ‘Twelfth Night’ at the Memorial Theatre, Stratford and at the same venue the following year, ‘ Troilus And Cressida ‘ and ‘ The Duchess Of Malfi ‘ and in 1961 ‘As You Like It,’ in a cast which included a young and bright eyed Colin Blakely.
By now his theatre credentials were impeccable, although he found time in this heady period to play a delightful Fagin in director Eric Tayler’s 1962 television mini- series ‘Oliver Twist’. A career high point was arguably his casting as Polonius in the newly formed National Theatre’s inaugural production of ‘Hamlet’ presented at the Old Vic in 1963, working with stage heavyweights Olivier, Redgrave and Peter O’Toole, amongst others. Now turned 60, his Indian summer was still in splendid profusion and in two highbrow screen productions, director Stuart Burge’s ‘Uncle Vanya’ and the BBC commissioned ‘As You Like It’ both 1963, he gave meticulously crafted performances, which gave him great personal satisfaction. However with age now a determining factor in any future projects, he was to find that dross was about to invade his lofty world. Films such as ‘Dr Terrors House of Horrors’1965, ‘The Terrornauts’ 1967, some inferior small screen productions, including ‘The Devil a Monk Would Be’1967 and the mini- series ‘Point Counterpoint’1968 were not his ideal choices but as he himself might have said, “needs must, darling”.
He also took in his stride, the role of the aptly named Ludicrus Sextus, in the first series of Frankie Howerd’s Roman farce ‘Up Pompeii’ 1969. Director Ken Russell cast him in three gratefully accepted roles, beginning with ‘The Music Lovers’, 1970, ‘The Devils’, 1971 and his big screen last hurrah, ‘ The Boyfriend’, 1972. That year he also bade a fond farewell to theatre in the musical ‘ Trelawney’ at the Prince of Wales, London. These performances probably writ large the personality of Max Adrian the actor, who tongue in cheek trod a chimerical road many times in his 45 year career.
Other Theatre and Film credits:
– Many Waters(1929) Prince’s Theatre, Bristol
– Grand Guignol(1932) Prince’s Theatre, Bristol
– Tavern In The Town(1937) Embassy Theatre, London
– Cornelius(1940) Westminster Theatre, London
– Oranges and Lemons (1949) Globe Theatre, London
– Penny Plain (1951) St Martin’s Theatre, London
– The Recruiting Officer (1964) NT Old Vic, London
– The Master Builder(1965) NT Old Vic, London
– Merely Mr. Hawkins(1938)
– Her Favourite Husband(1950)
– Perry Mason(1959)
– Doctor Who(1963)
– BBC Play For Today(1971)
– The World Of Wooster(1966)
Born Belfast 1964