Born Belfast 3rd March 1965
Conspicuous and forceful character player, a QUB law and LAMDA graduate who made an early appearance at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast in 1993 playing the formidable Petruchio in director Robin Midgley’s production of ‘The Taming of the Shrew’. Irregular stage work followed and included the title role of Chambers in the Co. Mayo based Yew Tree Theatre Company’s presentation of writer Anne Barrett’s two-handed psychological drama at the Building Theatre, Ballina in 1995.
His screen debut in 1995 saw him in a marginal role as Brian Sweeney in Allan Cubitt’s four part television drama ‘The Hanging Gale’, set in famine ravaged Donegal in 1846, featuring all four McGann brothers and based on an original idea by Joe and Stephen. His big screen introduction in 1996 was also peripheral, credited as Trooper in writer/director Stuart Gordon’s sci-fi adventure/comedy ‘Space Truckers’, filmed at Ardmore Studios, Co. Wicklow and starring Dennis Hopper and Stephen Dorff.
On stage that year at the Arts Theatre, Belfast, he was cast as musician Peter in Willy Russell’s strident, 70s Liverpool set comedy ‘Stags and Hens’ and in another Yew Tree Theatre collaboration in 1997, again at the Building Theatre, he was night club owner Shayman in Max Hafler’s social drama ‘Melting Doves’. He ended the nineties with an also starring part as gang boss Pryke in director Rob Spera’s thriller ‘Stray Bullet’ 1999, filmed in Co. Galway, substituting for Maine, USA. In the Stuart Graham directed ‘Marching On’, Gary Mitchell’s loquacious, orangeism at odds exposition, which premiered at the Lyric in 2000, he was Johnny the visiting Scot, in Belfast for the the 12th of July parade in a cast including Sean Caffrey and Packy Lee.
In 2004, in only his third film venture, he landed the role of the cycloptic Macedonian general, Antigonus in Oliver Stone’s much maligned, colossally budgeted epic ‘Alexander’, starring a decidedly nonplussed Colin Farrell as the warrior king. This exposure did not lead to a dramatic turn of fortune, as his next screen assignment was a guest role in Pat Shortt’s rural Irish comedy series ‘Kilnaskully’in 2006. However from 2007 until the end of the decade he did manage a number of ancilliary film and television credits, which included David Attenborough’s romantic/ drama ‘Closing the Ring’, 2007 and as Co. Antrim farmer Maurice Magee in director Andre F. Nebe’s N. Ireland produced feelgood comedy/drama ‘The Race’ 2009.
The following year he delivered an idiosyncratic cameo as UDA killer Michael Stone in Philip Martin’s television film, the BAFTA adorned bio-pic ‘Mo’, which also yielded a best actress award for Julie Walters as the insouciant Labour politician Mo Mowlam. At the Waterfront Studio, Belfast that same year he gave an almost script weary performance as drag artist Lillian in Marie Jones’ misfiring post- Troubles drama ‘Rock Doves’. In 2011 in director Michael McDowell’s two –part BBC television docu-drama ‘Brendan Smyth: A Betrayal of Trust’, he was disturbingly convincing as the serially paedophilic Catholic priest of the title.
His 2011 casting as the brutish Ser Meryn Trant, Knight of the Kingsguard in the first series of HBO’s astonishingly successful television fantasy/drama ‘Game of Thrones’, was by far his highest profile role to date, with his recurring character still active after four seasons. He was then mercifully underused in writer and first-time director Nathan Todd’s dialogue heavy and morally suspect 2013 crime drama ‘A Belfast Story’, a micro –budgeted film with little saving grace, notwithstanding a strong cast of Colm Meaney, Stuart Graham and Maggie Cronin.
In early 2014 and despite his ‘Game of Thrones’ credentials, he added only a clutch of functional roles, the more noteworthy being his Tsar Nicholas II in the television docu-drama ‘37 Days’ and as the divorced and now paternal carer Andrew in Gary Mitchell’s quick-fire comedy ‘Demented’, staged at the Lyric’s Naughton Studio, Belfast. In 2015 he broke with type, taking the role of DUP minister McCoubrey in the trite comedy ‘Number 2’s’, a distinctly unfunny effort from the Hole in the Wall team of Mcdowell, McGarry and Quinn. In a career which has offered several opportunities but not yet a breakthrough, Ian Beattie despite his committed efforts is still somewhat short of where he should be.
Other Theatre and TV credits:
– Pinocchio(1994) Arts Theatre, Belfast
– Caught Red Handed(2002) Lyric Theatre, Belfast
– Fishers of Men(2011) Culturlann McAdam O Fiaich
– Keith Lemon: The Film(2012)
– The Tudors(2009)
– Line of Duty(2014)
Hagan (Jim) Beggs
Born Belfast 19th March 1937
Died Vancouver 16th September 2016
Efficacious, Canadian domiciled character actor, who despite a lengthy screen career, which began in 1960, registered only two enduring roles, both in successive television series, running between 1985/1991. He made his uncredited screen debut in an episode of the Canadian version of CBS’ drama, ‘Startime’ in 1960 and for the next two years took a number of walk-on parts in an assortment of CBC productions.
His first credited role came in writer/director Lindsay Shonteff’s routine 1961 western, ‘The Hired Gun’, followed by further bit part television appearances, until his first American small screen sighting, a minor guest role as a sailor in NBC’s one season comedy, ‘The Wackiest Ship in the Army’ in 1965.
He found minimal work on U.S. television during the remainder of the sixties, the most notable, unquestionably his three episode run as Helmsman/Lt. Hansen in the first series of Gene Roddenberry’s fabled ‘Star Trek’, screened by NBC in 1966/67. An occasional collaboration with Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre, afforded him opportunities to test himself in that medium and was prominent in the cast lists of productions such as Brian Friel’s ‘Philadelphia Here I Come’ in 1968 and Brendan Behan’s first play, ‘The Quare Fellow’ in 1971.
Other modest guest appearances on U.S. television at the beginning of the seventies included CBS’ ‘Green Acres’ and ‘Medical Centre’, both 1970. He fared much better in the action feature, ‘The Groundstar Conspiracy’, directed by Lamont Johnson, starring George Peppard and an emerging Michael Sarrazin. Two Canadian produced films in 1975, saw him take a co-starring credit as engaging villain, Leon, in writer /director Boon Collins low-key western ‘Sally Fieldgood & Co’ and as rogue Soviet agent, Kavinsky, in first- time director Lou Lombardo’s political crime drama, ‘Russian Roulette’.
In a break from his screen activities, he returned to the stage, appearing at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre in 1976, in Joanna M. Glass’ poignant comedy/drama ‘Artichoke’. He was more fortunate in the eighties, working steadily as usual, but with a discernible difference in the quality on offer. In director John Guillermin’s dark and off-beat, 1980 Vancouver set drama, ‘Mr. Patman’ aka ‘Crossover’, he was cast as the anaesthetist, Bateman, opposite James Coburn’s eponymous psychiatric nurse. This was followed by minor supporting roles in two consecutive films, Bob Fosse’s 1983 bio/crime drama ‘Star 80’ and Jeremy Kagan’s family adventure, ‘The Journey of Natty Gann’ in 1985.
That same year he began working on the CBC series ‘Danger Bay’, going on to appear in all 122 episodes as aquarium head, Dr. George Dunbar. His ‘Danger Bay’ commitment notwithstanding, he was still churning out a decent quota of inconspicuous credits on film and television.
He secured an appreciable cameo as a gravedigger in writer/director Rex Bromfield’s knockabout big screen comedy, ‘Home is Where the Hart Is’, released in 1987. In another series, CTV’s 1880’s set western, ‘Bordertown’, which for a period between January 1989 and March 1990, ran in tandem with ‘Danger Bay’, he played town barber, Liam Gleeson, in what was a shoestring budget, but popular family drama with short standalone storylines. When the series ended in 1991, his domestically elevated profile should have yielded more, but instead offered little change. Indeed he spent the nineties largely on U.S. and Canadian television, filling the peripheral roles he was reluctantly accustomed to. The most noteworthy of these were ABC television’s ‘The Surrogate’ in 1995, director Michael Pattinson’s crime thriller ‘The Limbic Region’ aired on ‘Showtime’ and CBS’ mini-series ‘Titanic’, playing first class passenger Aiden Foley, both 1996.
In 1998 with his screen career drawing to a close and work diminishing, the best he could muster was a couple of small scale guest roles on television. Two years later he bowed out as he began, with elementary interest in an episode of Brian Ungar’s sci-fi anthology ‘Hollywood Off-Ramp’, entitled ‘TKO’. In a career spanning forty years, Hagan Beggs proved a proficient utility actor, who by and large, delivered emphatically, an honest days work for an honest days pay.
Other Film and TV credits:
-Cyberteens in Love(1994)
-It Takes a Thief(1968)
-The Name of the Game(1968)
-Here Comes the Brides(1969)
-The Six Million Dollar Man(1974)
-The Amazing Spider-Man(1979)
-A Letter to Three Wives(1985)
-Perry Mason: The Case of the Notorious Nun(1986)
Born Carlow 1907
Died Belfast 1993
* Included due to a lifetime contribution to local stage and screen
Authoritative and naturally gifted actor of both stage and screen renown, who for almost twenty years was the indesputable Grande Dame of Ulster Theatre and was at the centre of the hugely productive coterie at large in the Group Theatre Belfast from 1940 to 1959.
Before that she was an occasional member of Richard Hayward’s Belfast Repertory Theatre, appearing in two Hugh Quinn plays at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin in 1937, taking the snugly fit role, despite her thirty years, of the Widow McKeown in ‘A Quiet Twelfth’ and later was Miss Shiels in the Falls Road set ‘Collecting the Rent’. In 1938, she joined the newly formed Northern Ireland, Irish Players, which included Joseph Tomelty and Beatrice Duffell amongst it’s numbers and appeared at the Empire Theatre, Belfast in two early offerings presented in June 1939, Somerset Maugham’s ‘The Letter’ and Tomelty’s restructured ‘Barnum Was Right’, originally entitled ‘The Beauty Competition’.
During the forties she built a formidable reputation as a virtuoso character actor with the Group Players in productions such as Joseph Tomelty’s wartime Belfast set ‘Poor Errand’ and his black comedy, the retitled ‘Right Again Barnum’, both 1943 and Patricia O’Connor’s ‘Select Vestry’ 1945.
In the latter half of the decade she took leading roles in many praiseworthy Group presentations, including her misanthropic Katrine Quinn in Tomelty’s masterwork ‘All Souls’ Night’ in 1948, Harry Sinton Gibson’s ‘Bannister’s Cafe’, featuring a young Patrick Magee and Cecil Cree’s ‘A Title For Buxey’, both 1949.
Her reputation by this stage was now as big as her repertoire and she saw in the new decade with highly tuned central performances in plays as diverse as Sinton-Gibson’s family at war drama, ‘The Square Peg’ 1950 and the J.R.Mageean/Ruddick Millar quasi-farce ‘Arty’ 1951.
These were heady days indeed for the Group Players, whose nucleus comprised of the most proficient actors then available in Northern Ireland.
The early fifties proved equally as fertile and she endorsed her Queen Of Ulster Theatre status with majesterial characterizations, appearing as Teresa in Patrick Riddell’s ‘The House of Mallon’1952, as Mrs Connor in Michael J. Murphy’s drama ‘Dust Under Our Feet’ 1953 and as Marona in Joseph Tomelty’s ‘Is the Priest At Home?’ 1954.
Now vital to the fortunes of the Group Players, she commanded an elevated credit rating in virtually every production she chose to appear in, during what was incredulously the final years of the company.
Memorable performances included her Martha Gomartin in ‘That Woman at Rathard’, Sam Hanna Bell’s adaptation of his novel ‘December Bride’ and the mother Agnes Mahaffy, with Margaret D’Arcy in the title role of St John Greer Ervine’s potent melodrama ‘Martha’, both 1955.
In 1958, an intimation as to the future of the Group as a bona-fide repertory venue was severely tested when writer Gerald McLarnon’s eve of ‘The Twelfth’ observational piece ‘The Bonefire’, was forced to transfer to the Grand Opera House.
It’s perceived politically sensitive content alarmed certain members of an illiberal Board Of Directors and due to the attendant brouhaha, the play perhaps enjoyed more success than it otherwise merited, but did boast an illustrious cast, with Begley herself, James Ellis and Colin Blakely in prominent roles.
The following year the Group’s administrative hierarchy faced another examination, one which would create an artistic impasse too intractable to overcome.
The well documented ‘Over The Bridge’ incident resulted in the disintegration of the Group Players and Begley, who due to other commitments was not in the cast of Sam Thompson’s veritable classic which premiered at the Empire Theatre Belfast in January 1960, saw the door close on a momentous twenty year chapter in her professional life.
A new career on-screen awaited and she was quickly off the mark, making two television appearances in as many months at the end of 1959, with choice roles in ‘Armchair Theatre’ plays, an eye catching debut in ‘Worm in the Bud’ and a masterclass pairing with J.G.Devlin in Tomelty’s ‘A Shilling For the Evil Day’, screened by UTV the day after the official launch of the station on October 31st.
In the early years of the 1960’s she found no shortage of work, particularly on the small screen, where between 1960/62 she guested in several plays and series and included her first film role, an assured little cameo as Mrs Radford in director Jack Cardiff’s estimable interpretation of D.H.Lawrence’s ‘Sons and Lovers’ 1960.
On television she had a high level of exposure on many top rated shows of the day, such as ‘Z Cars’ 1962, ‘No Hiding Place’ 1963 and ‘The Plane Makers’ 1964, ensuring her future, for the short term at the very least, in a rapidly evolving medium.
Notable among small screen successes in the mid to late sixties was her role as Unionist politician’s wife Ethel Kerr in Sam Thompson’s ‘Cemented With Love’ 1965, which also courted controversy, but mercifully was eventually screened intact, with J.G.Devlin and Harold Goldblatt heading a strong cast.
Sadly Sam Thompson died just weeks before broadcast, but no doubt would have been satisfied that common sense ultimately prevailed.
In the seventies there was little change to her television schedule, with a relentless run of co-starring roles during a two year period, the best of which was arguably Dominic Behan’s Home Rule inspired teleplay ‘Carson’s Country’ 1972, in which she featured prominently in a cast including an inevitable J.G.Devlin, Harry Towb and Sam Kydd.
From that point her routine followed the familiar sixties template of guest starring roles in popular television series and the periodic play, with the exception of a regular appearance as Bridget McCarthy in the 1976 urban social drama ‘The Crezz’.
She marked her sixth decade as a professional actor, playing a subsidiary part in writer/director Tony Luraschi’s IRA infused film drama, ‘The Outsider’ 1980 and two years later aged seventy five, she played her final role, a stock-in-trade portrayal as Mrs Duncan in the much lauded ‘Harry’s Game’ 1982.
Elizabeth Begley was undoubtedly one of the most prolific actors to emerge from what is regarded as the golden age of Ulster theatre, a redoubtable and highly efficient player who later brought her guile and composure to a much wider square- eyed audience.
Other Theatre, Film and TV credits:
– The Old Broom (1944) Group Theatre, Belfast
– The Curse of the Lone Tree(1946) Group Theatre, Belfast
– A Lock of the General’s Hair (1953) Group Theatre, Belfast
– Ballyfarland’s Festival (1953) Group Theatre, Belfast
– April in Assagh (1954) Grand Opera House, Belfast
– Mrs Martin’s Man (1954) Group Theatre, Belfast
– The Farmer Wants a Wife (1955 Group Theatre, Belfast
– A Saint of Little Consequence (1956) Group Theatre, Belfast
– The Country Boy (1959) Group Theatre, Belfast
– The Sparrow’s Fall (1959) Group Theatre, Belfast
– A Pound on Demand (1967) Mermaid Theatre, London
– The Leather Boys (1964)
– Police Surgeon (1960)
– Fifth Floor People (1960)
– Jango (1961)
– Out of the Unknown (1966)
– The Patriot Game (1969)
– The Main Chance (1970)
– The Liver Birds (1971)
– Paul Temple (1971)
– Crown Court (1973)
– The Sweeney (1975)
– The Strange Affair of Adelaide Harris (1979)
Born Belfast 13th June 1946
Died Melbourne 28th March 2000
Exclusively Australian film and television focused character actor, who made her professional debut as Hazel Reeves in an episode of ABC’s Customs Police series, ‘Contrabandits’ in 1968, starring English actor Dennis Quilley. A year later she took a guest role in the top rated Melbourne based police drama series ‘Homicide’ and worked mainly in television in the seventies. She created sufficient interest for director Bruce Beresford to cast her as Jenny in his critically acclaimed ‘Don’s Party’ 1976, in which her study of a disaffected wife, won her best actress in the 1977 Australian Film Awards. A helter skelter relationship with acclaimed character player Bill Hunter, ended just seventeen days into their marriage in 1976. Hunter’s volatile hard drinking image it seems, knew no bounds. Pat Bishop was not fortunate enough to cash in on the success of ‘Don’s Party’, indeed she took no part in the international acclaimation of Australian cinema in the late seventies and early eighties.
In the first season of the well travelled women’s prison soap, ‘Prisoner (Cell Block H)’1979, she played gangster’s moll Victoria McNally and between 1982 and 1984 appeared in another television series, ‘A Country Practice’. Six years after the well deserved praise for her performance in ‘Don’s Party’, her big screen persona remained static, managing only two small roles in ‘Women of Valour’ and ‘Scorpion’, both 1986. She did fill the void with steady television work, including appearances in two mini- series ‘Paperman’ 1990 and ‘Brides of Christ’ 1991. Around the same time she was active in theatre, appearing in ‘Hate’ at Melbourne’s Victorian Arts Centre in 1989 and ‘Diving for Pearls’ at Belvoir Street Players Theatre in Sydney in 1991. She was still foraging away,existing on film and television scraps in the late nineties with minor roles in ‘Water Rats’1996, ‘Blue Heelers’1998 and on the big screen in writer/director Christina Andreef ‘s comedy drama ‘Soft Fruit’1999.
Pat Bishop had her stab at film stardom but it was so fleeting she failed to grasp it and choosing to stay within the antipodean laager, ultimately proved detrimental to any hope she had of international fame.
Other Film and TV credits:
– The Right Hand Man(1987).
– Cat Walk(1972),
– Man of Letters(1984),
– Correlli (1995),
– All Saints (1999)
Born Bangor, Co. Down 23rd September 1931
Died London 7th May 1987
Gregarious and intuitive character player who was smitten from his first hesitant steps in amateur dramatics, performing with his local opera society in Bangor during the early fifties. This led to a professional acting job with The Children’s Touring Theatre of Gwent in Wales, for a short period in 1957.
He returned home in late 1957 to join the Ulster Group Theatre and made his debut there as Dick McArdle in the 1958 production of ‘Master of the House’. Later that year he received deserved recognition with strong performances in ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ at the Group Theatre, and in Gerard McLarnon’s ‘The Bonefire’ at the Grand Opera House.
In 1959, his final year with the soon to be dissolved Group Players, he appeared in Patricia O’Connor’s rural Irish melodrama ‘The Sparrow’s Fall’ and the comedy ‘Sailor Beware’, before leaving for London, where later that year he had two walk on parts at the Royal Court. His appearances as second roughfellow in Sean O’Casey’s ‘Cock-a-Doodle-Dandy’ and his pugnacious collier in John Arden’s ‘Sergeant Musgrave’s Dance’ were inconsequential, but his big personality was evidently making an impression. His film debut in 1960, credited as ‘Loudmouth’ , was in director Karel Reisz’s brilliant contribution to British angst cinema, ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ and the same year in his first television appearance, played Ted, in writer Alun Owen’s ‘Lena O My Lena’.
In a two year period from 1961, his stage potential was given credence when he joined the RSC and was immediately into the fray with small parts in ‘Othello’ and ‘As You Like it’, both 1961. He put down a significant marker in his theatre career when he was asked to join the large theatre ensemble, gathered by newly appointed artistic director Laurence Olivier, for the inaugural National Theatre production of ‘Hamlet’, which was presented at the Old Vic in 1963. Later that year with the National Theatre, he pressed home his stage ambitions with another sound performance, this time in a leading role as Kite in George Farquhar’s ‘The Recruiting Officer’. He was now more recognisable on screen, most notably in another piece of angry northern cinema, Lyndsay Anderson’s ‘This Sporting Life’1963, as a rugby league teammate of Richard Harris.
Now a core member of the National Theatre Company, he appeared in many prestigious productions from 1964 to 1966, including ‘Andorra’, ‘Hobson’s Choice’, Peter Shaffer’s ‘Royal Hunt of the Sun’ all 1964 and ‘Juno and the Paycock’ 1966. That same year he was cast as Sir Thomas More’s servant Matthew in director Fred Zinneman’s film classic, ‘A Man for all Seasons’ and did not look uncomfortable as the Russian President in the Galton and Simpson farce ‘The Spy with the Cold Nose’.
From this point he stepped back from his frenetic early sixties stage activity and concentrated on a film and television career, which although prolific, produced only a few roles worthy of mention. He was Smokey Pickles, childhood friend of Albert Finney’s successful writer ‘Charlie Bubbles’, in the Finney directed film of the same name in 1967 and the following year had an also starring role in an adequate film version of Evelyn Waugh’s ‘Decline and Fall of a Bird Watcher’.
In an inspired piece of casting, he played Jesus Christ in Dennis Potter’s television play, ‘Son of Man, broadcast in 1969, with just a little reference to type, his characterization was more gruff than grace, but memorable for all that.
Following his role as Dr Watson in Billy Wilder’s ‘The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes’ in 1970, he returned to theatre, appearing at the Royal Court in ‘Uncle Vanya’, 1970 and had prominent roles in two Harold Pinter plays at the Aldwych in 1971. He played Stott in ‘The Basement’ and was superlative as Deeley in ‘Old Times’, which featured theatre giants Dorothy Tutin and Vivien Merchant. That year also saw him excel in the Abbey Theatre’s production of Tom Murphy’s ‘ The morning After Optimism’, in a cast which included Belfast born stage and screen actor Eithne Dunne.
Between 1972 and 1974 he had no problem finding work on screen, but only a handful of projects merited critical appraisal with the best of his efforts arguably in the title role of the television play ‘Peer Gynt’1972, co-starring in director Jack Gold’s black comedy film ‘The National Health’ 1973, and the not too insubstantial part of Mr. Hardman in the internationally successful ‘Murder on the Orient Express’1974. Sandwiched in between, he produced two excellent performances as Vukhow in Barry Collin’s ‘Judgement’ at the Royal Court and Torvald in Ibsen’s ‘A Dolls House ‘ at the Criterion Theatre, both 1973. His diverse role playing was tested in a variety of films in the latter half of the seventies; he played Siefried Farnon in ‘It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet’1975, Frank Strane in ‘Equus’1977, and Tamil in ‘Meetings with Remarkable Men’1979.
In yet another West End appearance he was an effortless Joe Keller in Arthur Miller’s ‘All My Sons’ at the Wyndhams Theatre in 1981 and the following year appeared in his second Agatha Christie whodunnit, as Sir Horace Blatt in the less successful film adaptation of ‘Evil Under the Sun’. During the last five years of his screen career he accepted roles which forced his range even wider. He was a capricious Stalin in the TV play ‘Red Monarch’1983, a bumptious uniformed Police Chief Superintendent Forbes in the quirky television series, ‘The Beiderbecke Affair’1985, and in a quite superb study of violence and evil, played McCann in Pinter’s televised play, ‘The Birthday Party’1986. Also that year in his penultimate television role he produced an almighty performance as old colonial George Beesley, adrift in the diminishing world of white Rhodesia, in ‘Drums Along Balmoral Drive’.
In his last screen appearance he played Dr. Salter in John Mortimer’s television mini-series ‘Paradise Postponed’ broadcast in October 1986 and though in obvious ill health, he gave a nightly display of exceptional fortitude in Alan Ayckbourne’s award winning ‘ A Chorus of Disapproval’, at the Lyric Theatre London, steering the play through it’s nine month run from June 1986 until march 1987. Colin Blakely came as close to the model of complete actor as it is possible to be, from his humble beginnings on stage at the Legion Theatre Bangor, to the brilliant years of the RSC and The National Theatre, stopping frequently along the way to demonstrate his dexterity on film and television and was as enthusiastic at the end as he was at the beginning.
Other Theatre, Film and TV credits:
– The Country Boy (1959) Group Theatre, Belfast
– A Moon For the Misbegotten(1960) Arts Theatre Club, London
– The Fire Raisers(1961) Royal Court, London
– Richard III (1963) RST, Stratford
– The Crucible (1965) NT Olivier, London
– Volpone(1968) NT Old Vic, London
– Just Between Ourselves (1977) Queen’s Theatre, London
– Lovers Dancing(1983) Albery Theatre, London
– Other Places(1984) Duchess Theatre, London
– Never Put It In Writing (1964)
– Alfred the Great (1969)
– Young Winston (1972)
– Galileo (1975)
– Equus (1977)
– The Dogs of War (1981)
– St. Joan (1968)
– The Challengers (1972)
– Love Among The Ruins (1975)
– King Lear (1984)
– The Father (1985)
Stephen Boyd (William Millar)
Born Whitehouse, Belfast 4th July 1931
Died Los Angeles 2nd June 1977
Rugged and assertive leading man, a short term matinee idol in the era of hunk and dimples, whose dalliance with Hollywood stardom was all too brief.
He began his acting career with the Ulster Group Players, making his debut as a gunman in the 1950 production of ‘Juno and the Paycock’ and appeared later that year in the more central role of George Cunningham, in Harry Sinton Gibson’s ‘The Square Peg’. Boyd, still only nineteen made several more appearances on the Group stage in early 1951, including,’ What’s Bred in the Bone ‘and ‘Fiddler’s Folly’ both 1951. That same year principle actor and writer Joseph Tomelty pencilled him in for a limited dialogue role as a policeman in his hit radio comedy series, ‘The McCooeys’, then in its third year of broadcast.
In the late summer of 1951 he accepted an invitation by Tyrone Guthrie to join his Ulster ensemble in London, as an understudy in the forthcoming Festival of Britain presentation of George Shiel’s ‘The Passing Day’ at the Ambassadors Theatre. Boyd remained in London after the closure of the play, taking work where he could find it and whilst working as a doorman at the Odeon Leicester Square, he had a chance meeting with esteemed actor Michael Redgrave, which subsequently led to an audition with the Windsor Repertory Company in early 1952. In another stroke of good luck some months later, he was chosen by the Arts Council of Great Britain for the post of actor and part time director with the midland Theatre Company. This in turn led to a contract with the BBC, where during the next two years he was to appear in a number of television plays. In 1954 he made his film debut as Errol Flynn’s pool side companion in director Herbert Wilcox’s ‘Lilac in the Spring’ which featured another young tyro and fellow beefcake, Sean Connery.
During the middle years of the fifties he saw his name rise steadily in the credit lists of a clutch of unexceptional British films including ‘A Hill in Korea’ and ‘The Man Who Never Was’, both 1956, landing his first leading role as Davie in the WW2 drama ‘Seven Thunders’, 1957. The following year in his first Hollywood based film for his studio 20th Century Fox, he took second billing behind Gregory Peck in Henry King’s western ‘The Bravados’. After two further contract projects, he was loaned to MGM for what should have been a career defining role as Mesalla in director William Wyler’s 1959 blockbuster ‘Ben Hur’. Taking advantage of the international success of the film, his employers Fox, cast him as Marc Antony opposite Elizabeth Taylor in what retrospectively proved a pivotal period in his career. Shooting in England was delayed for months due to Taylor’s ill health and several actors including Boyd were forced to honour other contractual commitments. Any momentum created by ‘Ben Hur’ had now screeched to a halt and it was almost two years later when he reappeared in the relatively low key comedy drama ‘The Big Gamble’1961.
His next big disappointment following the ‘Cleopatra’ fiasco was his shortlisting and subsequent failure to land the role of James Bond in ‘Dr. No’1962 and for the next three years he languished in a hotchpotch of small budget Hollywood films, television and an Italian made Gina Lollobrigida vehicle, ‘Venere Imperiale’1963. In 1964 he returned to the Roman epic genre, as Livius in Anthony Mann’s ‘The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire’ and, although more lavish and expansive than ‘Ben Hur’ it was not a box office success. It seemed that audiences were tiring of long historical dramas.
This film marked the point of Stephen Boyd’s decline and ironically yet another toga clad extravaganza played a major part in the proceedings. For the rest of the sixties his output was frustratingly mundane saved only by the novelty value of ‘Fantastic Voyage’1966. He played Grant, the leader of a group of doctors reduced in size to microscopic dots and injected with their submarine into the blood stream of a brilliant scientist in an attempt to save his life. In the early to mid-seventies he accepted more film assignments in Europe, working in Spain, Italy and Germany and unsurprisingly found these obscure ventures were not platforms for career advancement.
In his last British film, he gave a more than believable performance, employing his native accent to boot as London gangland Boss Vic, in Michael Apted’s crime drama ‘The Squeeze’1977.
He died that year of a massive heart attack whilst playing golf near his home in Northridge, California. He was 46 years old. Stephen Boyd experienced misfortune at crucial points in his professional life which dictated the shape of his career post ‘Ben Hur’. He was a textbook example of the contract leading man, who reluctantly accepted the mediocre in his pursuit of international acclaim, which regretfully visited him all too infrequently.
Other Film and TV credits:
– Seven Waves Away (1957)
– Woman Obsessed (1959)
– The Oscar (1966)
– Shalako (1968)
– Carter’s Army (1970)
– The Hands of Cormac Joyce (1972)
– The Lives of Jenny Doran (1975)
Born Belfast 10th December 1960
Actor/director/writer, at one time prince of all he surveyed, darling of the London stage and beyond. He was the anointed successor to Lord Olivier’s thespian kingdom, but after a decade of ducking the flying accolades, he went into self imposed exile from theatre, concentrating instead on film and television projects.
The high water mark of previous theatrical giants was perhaps pressure he did not need and effectively drew the curtain on his stage career, which was to last almost ten years.
He was a very young member of RADA, entering the venerable doors at eighteen years old and whilst there made his first film appearance, a fleeting glimpse credited as Artist in director Hugh Hudson’s Academy Award winning ‘ Chariots Of Fire ‘ 1981. Earlier that year in his television debut he played schizophrenic, Robert Clyde Moffat in the hospital set mini- series ‘Maybury’. A year later he took a months leave of absence from his last term at RADA to take the title role in the first of Graham Reid’s televised trilogy of ‘Billy’ plays, ‘Too Late to Talk to Billy’, Belfast set and with an ensemble of local actors, he was made to measure, accent and all.
He went on to complete the set in 1983 and 1984 and later in 1987 he reprised the role in the final added instalment, ‘Lorna’ with Brid Brennan this time in the title role. He made his professional stage debut in 1982 just six weeks after leaving RADA, appearing as Tommy Judd in writer Julian Mitchell’s ‘Another Country’, at the Queen’s Theatre, London, which won him The Society of Western Theatre’s ‘Most Promising Newcomer’ award.
Joining the RSC at Stratford in 1984, he became the youngest actor in it’s history to play Henry V, a distinction he was to find created more baggage than he imagined. Other major work with the company that year included ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ and thus began the whispering of his name as a serious heir to Geilgud and Olivier. In 1985 he starred in his own play ‘ Tell Me Honestly’, presented at the Donmar Warehouse and Almeida Theatre and appeared in his third big screen production, this time in a starring role in Alan Plater’s ‘ Coming Through ‘, playing a more than credible D. H. Lawrence. He left the RSC in 1985 following a short run in Jonathan Gem’s ‘ Doom Doom Doom Doom ‘ at the Almeida Theatre, London and together with fellow actor David Parfitt created an independent company, Kenneth Branagh Ltd. The first production in which he also starred and directed was ‘Romeo and Juliet’, staged at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith in August 1986.
A name change in 1987 to the Renaissance Theatre Company was given a mighty endorsement with the involvement of actors including Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi, and Richard Briers, who were all to appear in his subsequent film adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays. His new company’s first presentation ‘Public Enemy’, a rather wayward piece of theatre noir which he also wrote, was a box office disaster and it was only a life saving cash injection and the moderate success of a subsequent production, ‘ Twelfth Night’, at The Riverside Studios, London later in 1987 that saved the day. He was also busy on screen that year with two feature films, director Pat O’Connor’s 1920s Yorkshire set, ‘A Month in the Country’ and writer/director Clare Peploe’s ‘High Season’. On television he played Thomas Mendip in an adaptation of Christopher Fry’s 15th century romantic comedy ‘ The Lady’s Not For Burning’ and appeared with future wife Emma Thompson in James Cellan Jones’ excellent mini-series ‘Fortunes of War’.
Working with Emma Thompson again in 1989, he gave a riveting performance as anti-hero Jimmy Porter in a televised Renaissance co-production of John Osborne’s kitchen sink classic ‘ Look Back In Anger ‘. The stage version also directed by Judi Dench, undertook a short tour, beginning at the Grand Opera House, Belfast and ending at the Lyric Theatre, London. After a period of intense financial wrangling which had been ongoing since 1988, he was finally given the green light to realise a long cherished ambition. His focus now would be to bridge a gap of forty five years and emulate Olivier’s finest hour with what would be only the second big screen version of ‘ Henry V ‘. Released in November 1989 to huge international acclaim, Branagh was rewarded for his efforts with a Bafta Best Director Award and Oscar nominations for Best Actor and Director. This, the first of his projected Shakespearian productions was the materialising of his master plan of making the bard’s work available to a worldwide audience.
His final stage appearances with Renaissance before his voluntary ‘retirement’, were in ‘ Uncle Vanya ‘ at the Lyric Theatre, London in 1991 and ‘ Coriolanus ‘ at the Chichester Festival in 1992. He did as was expected mark his farewell to the RSC with another characterization of Hamlet, this time Edwardian themed, staged at the Barbican Theatre, London in 1992/93. In the years that followed he concentrated almost entirely on film making, acting in and directing ‘Peter’s Friends’ 1992, ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ 1993, ‘Frankenstein’1994, ‘Hamlet’1996 and ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ 2000.
Following a leading credit in director Frank Pierson’s WW2 television drama ‘ Conspiracy ‘ in 2001, he made his much awaited return to theatre in the title role of ‘Richard III ‘ at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield in 2002 and, although absent for almost a decade, his performance put paid to any doubters of his enormous stage presence.
Other notable film roles included his controlling and rather insultingly titled, Chief Protector Of Aborigines, A.O. Neville in ‘ Rabbit Proof Fence ‘ and the hapless Professor Gilderoy Lockhart in ‘ Harry Potter and the Chamber Of Secrets ‘, both 2002. In 2007 he turned director again with a remake of Anthony Shaffer’s ‘ Sleuth ‘, starring Michael Caine in a role reversal from the 1972 original and Jude Law. A year later he produced another fine example of stage proficiency, in the title role of Michael Grandage’s superior translation of Chekhov’s ‘Ivanov’ at the Donmar Warehouse, widely recognised as being at least on a level with his eighties triumphs.
That year also saw him on top form as Henning Mankell’s beleaguered Swedish detective Kurt Wallander, in the award winning BBC series ‘Wallander’, creating a more dog-eared character than perhaps even the writer had imagined. He was in no particular rush to increase his workload on either stage or screen as he entered his fiftieth year, carefully identifying perhaps, projects of interest. He was razor sharp in his cameo as arch- conservative minister Sir Alistair Dormandy, in Richard Curtis’ pirate radio inspired comedy ‘ The Boat That Rocked ‘ 2009. In 2011 he at last assumed the name at least of Laurence Olivier in director Simon Curtis’ ‘ My Week With Marilyn ‘, an account it seems of the fraught atmosphere engendered during the filming of Olivier’s ‘ The Prince And The Showgirl ‘ at Pinewood Studios in 1957. In a rare Belfast stage appearance, he demonstrated his extraordinary flexibility with a madcap performance as the hitman Ralph opposite Rob Brydon in Sean Foley’s ‘ The Painkiller ‘, an adaptation of the Francis Veber farce ‘ Le Contrat ‘, presented at the rebuilt Lyric Theatre in September 2011. In late 2015 he established the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company, which took up residence at the Garrick Theatre, London for a year long season of plays, opening with The Winter’s Tale’ and closing with John Osborne’s ‘The Entertainer’.
Branagh, whose persona was theatrically contrived in his early years, developed into a remarkably inventive player, with many major directing credits and has once again taken on the long neglected role of fabled actor/manager.
Other Theatre, Film and TV credits:
– The Madness (1983) Upstream Theatre, London
– Golden Girls (1984) RSC Other Place, Stratford
– Semi-Monde(1987) Royalty Theatre, London
– Edmond (2003) NT Olivier Theatre, London
– Dead Again (1991)
– The Ginger Bread Man (1998)
– How To Kill Your Neighbor’s Dog (2000)
– Five Children And It(2004)
– Valkyrie (2008)
– To The Lighthouse (1983)
– Boy In The Bush (1984)
– Shadow of a Gunman (1995)
– Warm Springs (2005)
Born Belfast 30th September 1938
Died Dublin 24th May 2014
All purpose and dexterous repertory player, erstwhile director and QUB graduate, who began and ended his prodigious career with Pearse and Mary O’Malley’s Lyric Theatre, making his debut on their bijou stage, then based in Derryvolgie Avenue, Belfast. He was quickly into his stride with a string of credits, most notably as Henry of Bolingbroke aka King Henry IV, in ‘The Tragedy of King Richard II’ in 1967, which also featured nineteen year-old Newry born, Gerard Murphy.
In the opening production at the newly built theatre in Ridgeway Street, Belfast in October 1968, he was credited with relatively minor roles in the second and fourth short plays of W.B. Yeats’ ‘The Cuchulain Cycle’, a collection of stories of the mythological hero of Ulster, appropriately directed by the founding mother Mary O’Malley.
In early 1969 he appeared as Spanish soldier Vasca, in Peter Shaffer’s sprawling epic ‘The Royal Hunt of the Sun’, depicting the 1530 conquest of Peru, co-directed by Sam McCready and Denis Smyth. In June of that year he was cast as the young tinker Carthalawn, in J.B.Keane’s Kerry set tragedy ‘Sive’ and in August, was given his first directorial role, with the third play of Sean O’Casey’s Dublin trilogy, ‘Juno and the Paycock’.
A year later and now very much an established Lyric Player, he was to experience in full throttle, the all-embracing diversity of a busy repertory actor. In January 1970 in O’Casey’s 1916 Rising tragedy, ‘The Plough and the Stars’, he took the central role of doomed Irish patriot Jack Clitheroe, with Louis Rolston as the pitiable Peter Flynn. Later in May of that year, he played the villainous Don John in Shakespeare’s romantic comedy ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ and then took the pivotal role of Peter Boyle in a revival of Sam Thompson’s potent Belfast shipyard exposition ‘Over the Bridge’.
In August 1970 he was given the opportunity to direct another O’Casey play, this time, the first of the trilogy, ‘The Shadow of a Gunman’ with a strong cast including Jack McQuoid and Mark Mulholland as IRA man Mr Maguire. At the end of that industrious year he proved convincing as the feckless dreamer ‘Peer Gynt’, in director Mary McCracken’s production of Henrik Ibsen’s folklore steeped Norwegian classic, first staged at Derryvolgie Avenue in 1957.
A prolific period during 1971/72, saw him register a veritable welter of appearances. Most noteworthy were his Christy Mahon in ‘The Heart’s A Wonder’, a musical adaptation of ‘The Playboy of the Western World’, as Gerard Donellan in John Boyd’s ‘The Flats’ and as Harry Heegan in O’Casey’s WW1 themed ‘The Silver Tassie’, all 1971.
1972 was equally productive with several admirable performances, not least of which was his role as the idealistic union activist Ayamonn Breydon, in O’Casey’s powerful drama ‘Red Roses for Me’, set against the Irish railway strike of 1911. He followed this with roles as Jim McCann in John Boyd’s ‘The Farm’ and a further directing project, Wilson John Haire’s ‘Within the Shadows’, depicting the fears of a mixed religion family in the throes of unfolding civil unrest in 1969 Belfast.
Significant other work in 1973/74 included yet another O’Casey piece, ‘Purple Dust’, described superfluously as a wayward comedy, it made its Irish professional debut at the Lyric in April 1973, directed by Tomas MacAnna. An ensemble credit in O’Casey’s early 1930’s set, depression driven, morality play ‘Within the Gates’, directed by Jim Sheridan, preceded his multiple roles in John Boyd’s localised, contemporary social drama ‘Guests’, both 1974.
His production rate slowed a degree in the mid to late seventies, but there were still opportunities to stretch his tried and tested range. His peripheral sighting as a priest in James Plunkett’s stirring tale of the 1913 Dublin lockout, ‘The Risen People’, staged in 1976, was eclipsed by a stellar cast headed by Stella McCusker, Des McAleer and purposeful debutant, Liam Neeson. Later in 1976 he was plausible as the Philadelphian Ben Burton, in Brian Friel’s well-travelled, bittersweet comedy ‘Philadelphia Here I Come’, which was quickly followed with a co-starring role as Welsh rebel leader Owen Glendower, in director Ian Lindsay’s adaptation of ‘Henry V1, Part 1’.
A self enforced semi-retirement at the end of the seventies, saw his output reduced to a short term run of yearly guest appearances. The majority of these were incidental, with the exception of his dual roles as Doctor/RUC Inspector in Eugene McCabe’s ‘Heritage’, Tommy McArdle’s fusion of the writer’s two television plays ‘Cancer’ and ‘Heritage’, which premiered at the Lyric in November 1980.
His sole contribution to screen was a supporting role in the small- scale independent film ‘It’s Handy When People Don’t Die’ 1980, set in Wexford during the Irish Rebellion of 1798, in a cast which included Lyric colleague Catherine Gibson.
On his premature retirement from the stage in the early eighties, he concentrated his efforts on teaching, a trained educator he taught English, Irish and of course drama at a Belfast College until 1999. Pat Brannigan was by and large a repertory everyman, a Sean O’Casey devotee, who ran the gamut of credits in a mountain of productions, in what became his spiritual home, the Lyric Theatre, Belfast.
Other Theatre Credits:
-Words Upon the Window Pane(1967)
-John Bull’s Other Island(1971)
-King of the Castle(1971)
-The Countless Cathleen(1972)
-Man of La Mancha(1972)
-We Do It For Love(1975)
-My Silver Bird(1981)
(All Lyric Theatre, Belfast)
Born Belfast 1955
Plaintive but self assured player, primarily of stage renown, whose theatrical portfolio covers most of the great plays and companies of these islands. She was active in theatre in Dublin in 1978, appearing in ‘Says I, Says She’ at the Project Arts, ‘The Ladies’ at the Eblana and ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ at the Gaeity.
In 1979 she was with The Moving Theatre Company appearing in the Dublin Theatre Festival production of ‘Legs Eleven’ and by 1981 had appeared in two films, making her debut as a lady- in- waiting in John Boorman’s lavish ‘Excalibur’1981, shot on location in Co.Wicklow. This was followed later that year with an also-starring role in Pat O’Connor’s low budget ‘Maeve’, set in 1970’s troubles torn Belfast.
She was a faultless Pegeen Mike in the 1981 Druid Theatre production of ‘The Playboy of the Western World’ at Druid Lane,Galway and then on the subsequent tour which included the Arts Theatre Belfast in early 1982. Later that year at the Lyric Theatre, she appeared in St John Irvine’s ‘Friends and Relations’ and in what proved to be a busy period, made her first television appearance as Lorna in the opening story of Graham Reid’s four televised plays, ‘Too Late to Talk to Billy’ 1982 .
Although her stage career to that point had been commendable, she also gave punctilious performances in several films, which included a memorable portrayal in the title role of writer/director Pat Murphy’s ‘Anne Devlin’1984.
For the remainder of the 80’s she survived on a mixture of television and theatre, including a starring role in ‘Lorna’ 1987 and on stage at the Royal Court in ‘Ourselves Alone’1985 and ‘Perdition’, at the Conway Hall in 1988.
The watershed of her career came with her flawless performance as Aggie Mundy in Brian Friel’s ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ at the Abbey in 1990, which then transferred to the National Theatre and subsequently to Broadway for which she won a richly deserved Tony Award.
Stage credits in the 90’s were plentiful, most notable of which were ‘Rutherford and Son’ for the National Theatre in 1994, a marvellous Lady Macbeth in the RSC production of ‘Macbeth’ at the Barbican in 1996, and a 1999 production of ‘Juno and the Paycock’ at the Gaeity Dublin.
In 1998 she recreated her stage role of Aggie Mundy in Pat O’Connor’s acclaimed film version of ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ and lost nothing of the subtlety she brought to the original.
In theatre from 2000 she has worked almost exclusively on the London stage, in plays such as ‘The Little Foxes’ at the Donmar Warehouse in 2001, ‘Bone’ at the Royal Court.2004, and back at the Donmar in ‘ The Cosmonaut’s Last Message’2005.
Her screen appearances during that time have been limited to television with guest roles in ‘Anytime Now’ 2002 starring Zara Turner and Susan Lynch and the medical drama series ‘The Clinic’, 2004.
Another fine if underused performance was her central role as Beatrice Behan, patient, enduring partner of hell-raising Brendan , played and co-directed by Adrian Dunbar in his raucous production of ‘Brendan At The Chelsea’, presented at the Riverside Studios London in 2008.
At the Gaiety Dublin in 2010 she was a splendidly adept Madge Mulhern, in a praiseworthy revival of Brian Friel’s much travelled classic, ‘Philadelphia Here I Come’, directed by Dominic Drumgoole, acclaimed artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.
In 2014 at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, she was sublime as the sorrowful Mother, Kate Keller in Arthur Miller’s post WW2 tragedy ‘All My Sons’, directed by Timothy Sheader. Another exquisite performance was her cameo as the jaundiced Miss Kelly, the Enniscorthy shopkeeper, in Nick Hornby’s adaptation of Colm Toibin’s 1950’s set novel ‘Brooklyn’, released in 2015. Brid Brennan remains an enigma, a hard earned and much respected name in theatre, but whose screen career with a few imposing exceptions has been strangely irregular.
Other Theatre, Film and TV credits:
– Smelling a Rat (1988) Hampstead Theatre, London
– Man, Beast and Virtue(1989) NT Cottesloe Theatre, London
– A Kind of Alaska (1998) Donmar Warehouse, London
– La Lupa(2000) RSC The Other Place, Stratford
– Absolutely Perhaps (2003) Wyndhams Theatre, London
– Pillars of the Community (2005) NT Lyttleton Theatre, London
– Woman and Scarecrow (2006) Royal Court, London
– Silverbirch House (2007) Arcola Theatre, London
– Intemperance (2007) Liverpool Everyman
– Bliss (2008) Royal Court, London
– Desolate Heaven(2013) Theatre 503, London
– The Balloon of Romance (1982)
– Trojan Eddie (1996)
– Felicia’s Journey (1999)
– Swansong: Story Of Occi Byrne (2009)
– She’s Been Away (1989)
– Tell Tale Hearts (1992)
– Hedda Gabler (1993)
– Cracker (1995)
– Father and Son(2009)
– Doctor Who(2010)
– The Escape Artist(2013)
Born Holywood, Co. Down 1904
Died Dublin 20th May 1977
Irrepressible character actor, whose Abbey career spanned four decades and who brought more than the conventional whimsical presence to his many screen roles. He was what could be considered a second-generation Abbey Player, who arrived just after the first Hollywood exodus. Brogan first came to prominence in 1942, with appearances in the principle Dublin theatres and included the role of Ted Bogle in Paul Vincent Carroll’s ‘The Strings are False’ at the Olympia, and Tom Purefoy’s comedy, ‘Say 99’ at the Gaiety. One of his earliest Abbey roles was as Dooley in George Shiel’s ‘The New Regime’ in 1944, which saw him rub shoulders with titans such as Cyril Cusack, F J McCormick and Denis O’Dea. From the mid forties his Abbey Player status was confirmed and he was a constant in the majority of the Irish National Theatre’s post war credit lists, most notably in George Shiel’s ‘Tenants at Will’1945, Walter Macken’s ‘Mungo’s Mansion’1946 and Elizabeth Connor’s ‘The Dark Road’1948. For him, the fifties began as the forties ended, with a busy Abbey Theatre schedule and as a member of a resident cast, which was rightly considered exceptional.
Among his better work in the early fifties was Louis D’Alton’s ‘The Devil a Saint Would Be’1951, which following the destructive fire at the Abbey in July 1951, was presented at the Rupert Guinness Hall in September of that year. In 1952 he was part of the obligatory Abbey contribution to the Irish film industry when making his debut as Barnie, in Basil Dearden’s well meaning, but naive address to the IRA problem, ‘The Gentle Gunman’. With no particular ambition to pursue a film career, he continued to work enthusiastically with the Abbey, producing many memorable performances in roles such as Jimmy King in M J Molloy’s ‘The Wood of the Whispering’1953, Atty Adams in Macken’s ‘Twilight of a Warrior’1955, and Aloysius Hennessy in James Plunkett’s political drama, ‘The Risen People’1958. He also displayed sharp comedic touches in ‘A Riverside Charade’1954, Hugh Leonard’s ‘The Big Birthday’ 1956, and John O’Donovan’s satirical farce ‘The Less We Are Together’1957.
A return to films in 1958 was less challenging, he co-starred as Julie Harris’ poacher father Rabit Hamil in director George Pollock’s comedy ‘Sally’s Irish Rogue’, which was nothing more than the Abbey in celluloid, plus American guest. He followed this with a stroll in the park role in another piece of emerald whimsy, ‘Broth of a Boy’1959, notable only for the final screen appearance of legendary Abbey Player and Hollywood star Barry Fitzgerald. His most fruitful period was undoubtedly between 1958/1962, during which he established himself as one of the great unsung Irish actors, with major roles in most of the Abbey’s productions of the period. Comedies such as ‘I Know Where I’m Going’, ‘Leave It To The Doctor’ both 1959 and ‘Anyone Could Rob a Bank’ 1960 and dramas including ‘Strangers Beware’1959, and ‘It Can’t Go On Forever’1960, demonstrated the measure of his stage mastery.
On screen in 1960, he took the leading role of the grandfather in the Ted Allen adaptation ‘Lies My Father Told Me’ and two years later played Dunlavin in Brendan Behan’s autobiographical ‘The Quare Fellow’1962. Two significant Abbey appearances in 1962 brought him further critical acclaim as Old Tadhg in Liam Lynch’s undervalued social statement ‘Do the Rushes Sing in Birmingham’ and as Noble O’Hara in Kevin Casey’s powerful drama ‘The Living and the Lost’. Following the most prolific period in his professional life, Brogan’s work load although considerable, was imperceptibly thinning out. He took an also starring role in Enda O’Brien’s bittersweet romantic drama, ‘Girl With The Green Eyes’1964 and a year later was similarly credited in director Jack Cardiff’s superficial account of the early life of Sean O’Casey, ‘Young Cassidy’.
In 1966, following fifteen years of tenancy at the Queen’s Theatre Dublin, the Abbey Players took to the stage in their new arena with Brogan prominent in the cast as Sir James Hannon, for the opening night play, Kenneth E. L. Deale’s ‘The Conspiracy’, which unfortunately for him marked a more discernible diminution of viable roles. This was hardly surprising for an actor now well into his 60’s, but he still made himself available for work and was showing the way in top-drawer Abbey productions including Frank McMahon’s adaptation of Behan’s autobiographical, ‘Borstal Boy’1967, Tom Murphy’s ‘Famine’1968, and Liam Lynch’s ‘Soldier’1969. His last stage role, fittingly at The Abbey in December 1974, was as the butler in Tom Murphy’s adaptation of Oliver Goldsmith’s ‘The Vicar of Wakefield’, and in a reckless escape from retirement in 1977, appeared as the blind man in writer/director Calvin Floyd’s Swedish produced horror film, ‘Victor Frankenstein’.
Harry Brogan’s legacy is that he was convincing enough to sustain a veritable lifetime career at the citadel of Irish theatre, which in retrospect explains everything.
Other Theatre and Film credits:
– The House of Cards (1942) Olympia Theatre, Dublin
(All Abbey Theatre, Dublin)
– The Lucky Finger (1948)
– The Will and the Way (1955)
– In Dublin’s Fair City (1959)
– All the King’s Horses (1961)
– The Weaver’s Grave(1969)
– This Other Eden (1959)
– A Terrible Beauty (1960)
– The Webster Boy (1962)
Born Belfast 6th March 1969
Functional but camera friendly aspiring leading man, one of three actor siblings in a composition that might notionally be described as a minor dynasty. After a conventional blooding in college theatre productions in Los Angeles during the eighties/ early nineties, he made his screen debut as Jack, in writer/director Klaus Hoch’s little seen thriller ‘Flypaper’1997. His first television appearance came later that year in the short lived and obscure US superhero series ‘Night Man’and repeated his role of Chrome in another episode in early 1998.
His second straight to video film was Bret Arnold’s ‘Stomping Grounds’1998, which was to be his last work of any value for three years, until an uncredited appearance in the independently produced ‘Rennies Landing’ in 2001. He was the billionaire playboy Henry Brooke in the 2002 television series ‘Chromiumblue.com’ and played Lt.Burrows in the estimable sci- fi thriller ‘Impostor’, which boasted a strong cast including Gary Sinise and Madeleine Stowe. He took a backward step in 2003 appearing in several video release productions, such as the comedy drama ‘Connecting Dots’, the film version of ‘Chromiumblue.com’, again as Henry Brooke and the low key thriller ‘Deadly Swarm’. He fared a little better as vampire- in- chief, Kraven, in director Len Wiseman’s horror fantasy‘Underworld’ 2003, which also featured Derek Jacoby and Bill Nighy.
After an ancillary part in director Fabien Pruvot’s inspired indie film ‘Sin’s Kitchen’ 2004 he took leading roles in ‘Devil’s Highway’ in 2005 and in writer/director Michael Hurst’s horror tale ‘Room 6’ in 2006. He reprised his role of Kraven in the ‘Underworld’ sequel, ‘Underworld: Evolution’ in 2006 and also that year gave arguably his most valued performance as The Man, in Mark Comer’s acclaimed Irish produced ’48 Angels’, which remains his only contribution to indigenous film and theatre. In 2007 he worked for Fabien Pruvot again, playing yet another shadowy character, this time international hit man, code named Japan, in the action film of the same name but the product suffered from a lack of box office interest and did nothing to promote his seemingly stationary career.
Shane Brolly may have more depth than the work he has hitherto undertaken in his comparatively short career and in consideration any judgement should be dispassionately deferred .
Other Theatre, Film and TV credits:
– Underworld: The Rise of the Lycans(2009)
– Book of Fire(2014)
– CSI New York (2007)
– Mr And Mrs Smith (2007)
W. Graham Browne
Born Belfast 1st July 1911
Died London 1983
Routine character player, whose career began in earnest on stage in the mid-forties and included a starring role in the Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts thriller, ‘Portrait In Black’ at the Piccadilly Theatre, London in 1946. The following year he made his screen debut as Willie Reilly in Dublin born writer Denis Johnston’s tragicomedy, ‘The Moon In The Yellow River’, directed by George More O’Ferrall, which also featured Margaret Boyd, his co-star in ‘Portrait In Black’.
In 1948 he was cast as Petty Officer Patrick Keohane RN in director Charles Frend’s Bafta nominated, faithful but budget constrained, ‘Scott of the Antarctic’, starring a monumentally stoic John Mills as the doomed explorer. Immediately after a stage production of Roger MacDougall’s ‘The Gentle Gunman’ at the Arts Theatre Club, London in August 1950, he was recruited to reprise his role as IRA gunman, Flynn in a somewhat pedestrian, made for television film later that same year.
He continued to work intermittently on screen during the early to mid-fifties, with minor roles in director Victor M. Gover’s crime drama, ‘King of the Underworld’ and the inaugural production for the Children’s Film Foundation, ‘The Stolen Plans’, both 1952.
At the Garrick Theatre, London that year he took a central credit as the dubious Darkie, in Gerald Verner’s ‘Meet Mr Callaghan’, an adaptation of Peter Cheyney’s crime novel, ‘The Urgent Hangman’, reuniting with the character in the 1954 big screen version, a one paced attempt at American Film Noir, directed by Charles Saunders.
He worked for Saunders again in 1955 in the comedy drama ‘The Hornet’s Nest’, starring the London based Canadian actor/singer, Paul Carpenter and the ill-fated June Thorburn. He was busier from 1957, and for six years thereafter he enjoyed what proved to be the apex of his career. Notable among his many screen appearances were his recurring role as Dinny O’Toole in the English Civil War set television series ‘The Gay Cavalier’ 1957 and three further films for Charles Saunders, the comedy ‘Strictly Confidential’ 1958 and two crime dramas, ‘Jungle Street’ and ‘The Gentle Trap’, both 1960.
A more prominent role as Dillon in ‘The Pot Carriers’, an ITV Play Of The Week in 1960 was followed by guest parts in series such as ‘Barnaby Rudge’ 1960, ‘Sir Francis Drake’ 1962 and ‘Mr Justice Duncannon’ 1963. A brief sighting in director Norman Harrison’s 1962 mystery drama, ‘Locker 69’ was to be his last film appearance for nine years and even television work, which had sustained him for almost ten years had all but melted away. However during May of 1965 he saw his profile rise a little with a prized if limited role as Mr Kirby in the nation’s favourite soap, ‘Coronation Street’.
In the seventies he made what he could of a brief Indian summer with low-end credits in all of his film appearances between 1971/74. Writer/director Gerry O’Hara gave him a miniscule part in his taboo charged drama, ‘All the Right Noises’, starring Tom Bell and Olivia Hussey, made in 1969 but only given distribution clearance in 1971. A year later he had a marginally better role in the quasi-musical, ‘Along the Way’, written by Dublin born, dog whispering grande dame, Barbara Woodhouse.
In 1974 his name appeared in the nether regions of Christopher Larkin’s ‘A Very Natural Thing’. Larkin poured all his energy into the project, co-writing, directing and producing what was the first American motion picture to promote the legitimacy of homosexual love as a central theme. A last sighting on screen was in the opening episode of the Bafta Award winning musical drama, ‘Rock Follies’ 1976, appearing as old -hand magician Eddie Lorenzo. Larry Burns had an unremarkable career with very few opportunities to impress, but through his efforts in the fifties he did make a small contribution to the early development of British television.
Other Film and TV credits:
-The Diamond Wizard(1954)
-Raiders of the River(1956)
-Count Five and Die(1957)
-Witness in the Dark(1959),
-Caught in the Net(1960)
-Dentist in the Chair(1960)
-The Errol Flynn Theatre(1957)
-Sailor of Fortune(1957)
-This DayiIn Fear(1958)
-Interpol Calling(1959)-Formula For Danger(1960)
-The Secret Kingdom(1960)
-The Chequered Flag(1960)
-Suggestion of Sabotage(1961)
-The Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre(1962)
-Z Cars(multiple appearances)1962/1973.
Born Balloughry, Coleraine 8th January 1957
Imperturbable leading actor, exuding star bearing, whose range has not been really tested beyond television.
She studied at the Manchester Polytechnic of Film, Television and Theatre in the late seventies and for two years from 1980 worked in repertory theatre with Bolton Octagon and Dukes Playhouse Lancaster.
After graduating, she successfully auditioned for the part of Heather Haversham in the new suburban Liverpool set soap ‘Brookside’ 1982, where she remained until 1986 and soon after her departure accepted the role of Detective Constable Margaret Daly in several episodes of the bread and butter private eye series ‘Boon’1987-1989 starring Michael Elphick. For the next seven years she worked on television in such productions as ‘Where there’s a Will’ 1989 and the action thriller ‘A Casualty of War’ 1990. Then in 1993 she landed the leading role of Dr. Beth Glover, in the Derbyshire set medical drama ‘Peak Practice,’ co-starring with Kevin Whately and Simon Shepherd and after three success filled years, left the series, finding work almost immediately as Rosie Willis, in Graham Reid’s television drama ‘Precious Blood’ 1996.
Her CV was now exclusively television charged and the status quo was preserved with the role that probably suited her persona more than any other, that of pathologist Dr. Sam Ryan in the excellent long running crime drama series ‘Silent Witness’, where surrounded by cadavers, she endured for eight years.
Following further television guest roles, most notably as the protagonist Laura Tracey in the factually based ‘Whistleblower’ 2001, she became top cop Clare Blake in yet another series, ‘The Commander’ 2004 and again we were no closer to an evaluation of her proficiency beyond the small screen. Finally after twenty five years as an entrenched television actor, she made her feature film debut, appearing as the mother of long-term hard man prisoner, Michael Peterson, aka Charles Bronson, in director Nicolas Winding Refn’s laboured bio-pic ‘Bronson’ 2008. In 2010 she signed up for another possible long haul television role, a positive shoe-in casting as head teacher Karen Fisher in the popular Rochdale set ‘Waterloo Road’, chronicling the trials and tribulations of a troubled Greater Manchester comprehensive school.
Amanda Burton has been much too faithful to the service of television, which with the passing of time has placed an unnecessary constraint on an auspicious career.
Other Theatre, Film and TV credits:
– Lovejoy (1992)
– The Gift (1998)
– Pollyanna (2003)
– Marple: Nemesis (2007)
– Midsomer Murders(2015)