Born Derry 1972
Fiery and confrontational character actor and singer, who was with Derry’s Oakgrove Theatre Company and in her final year at school, when she made her television debut in Michael Winterbottom’s Channel Four drama ‘Strangers’, in 1989.
One of her earliest professional stage appearances saw her in dual roles as Mallin and O’Brien, in Tom Murphy’s Easter Rising docudrama, ‘The Patriot Game’, presented at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin in 1991. That same year she landed a career making role in Alan Parker’s phenomenally successful feature film ‘The Commitments’, featuring a cast of unknown actor/musicians, in which her character, backing singer Bernie McLaughlin, was in essence Bronagh Gallagher playing herself.
On the back of this exposure she now found more doors opening for her and in 1992 appeared in Graham Reid’s low budget black comedy, ‘You Me and Marley’ , and more importantly had a small but incisive role as Trudi, in Quentin Tarantino’s international hit ‘Pulp Fiction’ 1994. Stage appearances in the mid nineties included two sparkling performances, first as Chorus in an excellent production of ‘Peer Gynt’ at the Barbican in 1994 and two years later played Stacia, in director Garry Hynes’ 1996 premiere of Marina Carr’s haunting Irish tragedy, ‘Portia Coughlan’, presented at the Abbey in 1996.
Screen highlights during this period were many and varied, criss-crossing the genres with appearances in a television adaptation of ‘Shadow of a Gunman’ and in three very different feature films, which covered horror, comedy and sci-fi, ‘Mary Reilly’ 1996, ‘The Most Fertile Man in Ireland’ and ‘Star Wars, Episode One, The Phantom Menace’, both 1999. Despite her screen commitments, she maintained a healthy interest in theatre, appearing in director Simon McBurney’s ‘The Caucasian Chalk Circle’ on the National’s Olivier stage in 1997 and played Adela, in the London based Theatre De Complicite’s tour with ‘Street of Crocodiles’, which included a presentation at the John Jay College Theatre, New York in 1998.
Further stage work from 2000 included a memorable performance as the dysfunctional daughter, Mary, in Conor McPherson’s much lauded ‘Dublin Carol’ at the Royal Court in 2000, later transferring to the Atlantic Theatre, off Broadway the same year. On screen in 2001 she had a co-starring role in Colin Bateman’s Irish produced comedy, ‘Wild About Harry’ and with convincing vulnerability, played Kitty Alridge in director Aisling Walsh’s no holds barred, Magdalene Laundry based television drama, ‘Sinners’ 2002.
Her film credits during the next few years were restricted to low budget comedies such as, ‘Thunderpants’ 2002, Ian Fitzgibbon’s Irish set ‘Spin the Bottle, 2003 and to augment her feature film output, accepted a small role in director Gillies MacKinnon’s adaptation of Maeve Binchy’s melodrama ‘Tara Road’ 2005. Noteworthy television work at this time, included her defiant Protestant mother Sarah Norton, in writer Terry Cafolla’s factually based, Belfast primary school drama, ‘Holy Cross’ 2003, which deservedly won her a shared FIPA Award.
In 2006 she was sadly underused in director Brian Kirk’s sombre and violent Ulster set Gothic thriller, ‘Middetown’ and found herself in a similar capacity in the abstruse horror/thriller ‘Botched’ 2007, both of which promised more than they delivered. Two years later she took another also- starring role, listed as Palm Reader in Guy Ritchie’s action slanted ‘Sherlock Holmes’, which featured the unconventional and forensically challenged pairing of Robert Downey Junior as Holmes and Jude Law as Dr. Watson. She returned to the National Theatre in 2009, after an absence of twelve years, delivering a spellbinding performance as Rose Narracott in Michael Morpurgo’s acclaimed WW1 epic, ‘War Horse’ at the New Theatre. Again at the National, this time on the Olivier stage in 2010, she played the irresolute teacher in the Stoppard/Previn political black comedy, ‘Every Good Boy Deserves a Favour’, revived after an astonishingly successful run at the same venue only a year before.
At the Royal Court’s Jerwood Theatre, Downstairs in 2011, she predictably milked the laughs in her supporting role as the candid housekeeper Tatyana, in Alexi Kaye Campbell’s moralistic drama ‘The Faith Machine’. A year later she began a long run as the practical Sandra Prince, in writer Chris Reddy’s three season, BBC Three comedy/drama series ‘Pramface’, faultless as the mother of teenage father Jamie, which aired from February 2012 until March 2014.
Bronagh Gallagher is a confident but distracted actor of unquestionable ability across all the media and there is no doubt her star will remain in focus for as long as she does.
Other Theatre, Film and TV credits:
– Light (2000) Theatre De Complicite (Touring Company)
– Seven(2014) Stormont, Belfast
– Divorcing Jack (1998)
– Tristan and Isolde (2006)
– Faintheart (2008)
– The Big I Am (2010)
– Tamara Drewe (2010)
– Shooting for Socrates(2014)
– The Fitz (2000)
– On a Lifes Edge (2001)
– Poirot 2005)
– Moone Boy(2015)
Born Manchester 5th July 1899
Died London 22nd April 1982
*Included due to a lifetime contribution to local stage and screen
Commanding and perceptive actor and unapologetic stage enthusiast, who brought together his Jewish Institute Dramatic Society in a three-way fusion of talent and ideas to create the celebrated Ulster Group Players in the winter of 1939/40. The triumvirate, consisting of the residue of the Ulster Literary Theatre, then functioning as the Ulster Theatre, the Northern Ireland, Irish Players and Goldblatt’s company, began with a so called experimental period, presenting James Bridie’s comedy ‘Storm in a Teacup’ in March 1940. Their Official launch, after a summer of reflection, took place in September with a revival of St John Greer Ervine’s homespun favourite ‘Boyd’s Shop’, a deliberate spirit lifting selection perhaps in view of the prevailing dark and uncertain times.
Goldblatt’s first experiences on the Belfast stage came courtesy of a short dalliance with Richard Hayward’s roving Belfast Repertory Company, appearing most notably as Alexander Knox in Thomas Carnduff’s period drama ‘Castlereagh’, presented at the Empire Theatre, Belfast in 1935. In the early years of the war, a crucial time in the development of the Group Players, his presence proved invaluable, indeed playwright James Bridie endorsed his importance by suggesting he take central roles in all of his submitted pieces.
One such play in which he adhered to the writers wishes was ‘Mr Bolfry’ 1944, a minor success in the general scheme of things, with Goldblatt registering a double credit as actor and director.
During the Forties he delivered many noteworthy performances in productions as significant as Jack Loudan’s ‘Henry Joy McCracken’ 1945, George Shiels’ ‘Borderwine’ 1946 and ‘Mountain Post’ 1948, in a cast featuring Patrick Magee and James Young and Cecil Cree’s ‘A Title For Buxey’, which opened on Christmas Eve 1949.
In 1951, Joseph Tomelty, who had not only been at the coalface as both writer and actor, but had also shouldered the extra burden of General Manager, resigned from the administrative post due to the increasing demands of his hugely successful radio serial ‘The McCooeys’ . Goldblatt was the obvious replacement, but with his dual roles as actor/director and personal business commitments, he too was to experience the pressures of balancing such a workload.
The 1951 schedule exemplified the open door policy of embracing an eclectic mix of works by writers, new and not so young, two particular comedies that underlined this edict were seventy eight year old Lynn Doyle’s ‘Fiddlers Folly’ and first time writer Janet McNeill’s ‘Signs And Wonders, with Goldblatt taking mid-casting roles in each. The following year in Patrick Riddell’s commendable drama ‘The House of Mallon’, he took most of the plaudits for both directing and his principle role as patriarch Sir Miles Mallon, opposite the doughty Elizabeth Begley.
From 1953 until1957 he presided over a raft of peerless productions, including Michael J. Murphy’s ‘Dust Under Our Feet’ 1953, Tomelty’s sparkling comedy ‘Is The Priest at Home?’ 1954, marvellous as protagonist Father Malan and two actor/director credits, Greer Ervine’s melodrama ‘Martha’ 1955 and Louis Macneice’s intriguing ‘Traitors In Our Way’ 1957. His film debut in 1956 was in the less than challenging role of the schoolteacher in director Roy Ward Baker’s maudlin Belfast set ‘Jacqueline’ and a year later snatched a brief on-screen moment in John Ford’s indulgent trio of vignettes, ‘The Rising of the Moon’ . Two films in 1958 included a skilful cameo as the doomed, but composed and dignified Benjamin Guggenheim, in Roy Ward Baker’s outstanding ‘Titanic’ exposition ‘A Night to Remember’.
In August of 1958, a play by Gerald McLarnon and directed by Tyrone Guthrie, opened amidst much fatuous controversy at the Grand Opera House, Belfast. ‘The Bonefire’, McLarnon’s cogent study of 11th night celebrations within the Belfast protestant laager, was ruled too contentious by the Groups myopically cautious Board Of Directors. A weighty cast of Goldblatt, Begley, Ellis, Blakely et al, embellished an otherwise well-written but functional play during it’s successful run at the much larger Belfast venue.
In December of 1958 he relinquished his position as General Manager of the Group, a precursor it would prove to the tumultuous events that would unfold in the months ahead, triggered by the larger and much slippier banana skin of Sam Thompson’s no holds barred
shipyard critique, ‘Over the Bridge’. Goldblatt’s future lay elsewhere and he continued with gusto, a screen career that had begun inauspiciously in 1956.
In a welter of screen work from 1960 he applied himself positively in a mixture of teleplays, top rated series and a number of minor roles in films as disparate as ‘The Siege of Sydney Street’1960, director Michael Curtiz’s ‘Francis of Assisi’ 1961 and two Stephen Boyd thrillers, ‘The Big Gamble’ 1961 and ‘The Inspector’ 1962. Despite his feverish schedule, he somehow found time to pencil in two London theatre appearances in 1961, Paddy Chayefsky’s ‘The Tenth Man’ at the Comedy and a re-acquaintance with Michael J.Murphy’s ‘Dust Under Our Feet’ at the Arts.
In 1963, arguably his most productive year since the halcyon days of the Group, he not only registered credits in four feature films, but affirmed his passion for the stage with the creation of the optimistic and itinerant Ulster Theatre Company, ostensibly a travelling ensemble comprised of former Group colleagues and guests. The inaugural production performed with obvious assurance by a most dependable cast, was Paul Vincent Carroll’s comedy drama ‘The White Steed’, a pleasing if modest success for Goldblatt whose big screen efforts that year included co-starring roles in writer/director John Gilling’s English civil war adventure ‘The Scarlet Blade’ and Carol Reed’s problematic drama ‘The Running Man’.
Barely ten years since his unobtrusive arrival on screen he had in his own effectual way, established himself as an uncomplicated and respected character actor. Notable television work in the latter half of the sixties was a much cherished role as Unionist politician John B. Kerr in Sam Thompson’s trenchant drama ‘Cemented With Love’, alongside old friend Elizabeth Begley. His film credits at this time were not as significant, save an ideal, albeit bit part as an Abbey Theatre manager in Jack Cardiff’s ‘Young Cassidy’ 1965.
In 1967 his Ulster Theatre Company, essentially a Group Players soiree, presented another of their periodic productions, again in a suburban Belfast location, this time the Grove Theatre, where a revival of St John Greer Ervine’s ‘Friends and Relations’ was staged, with a cast including himself, Elizabeth Begley, and R.H.McCandess. In June 1969, the company boosted by veteran Ulster actors, J.G.Devlin, Harry Towb, Margaret D’Arcy and Goldblatt as Master Magee, took to the Abbey’s Peacock stage for what was their grandest production to date, George Shiel’s neglected drama ‘Macook’s Corner’.
A characteristically understated performance as Peter Finch’s father in John Schlesinger’s impassioned, multi-award winning ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ 1971, was followed in the same year with a brace of unavailing television roles, but he redeemed himself with a with a co-starring credit in another Finch vehicle, director Alastair Reid’s crime thriller ‘Something to Hide’ 1972, which also featured an increasingly ubiquitous Colin Blakely. An appropriately cast two episode guest role as Professor Dale in the sempiternal childrens sci-fi series ‘Doctor Who’ in 1973, preceded his third successive film encounter with Peter Finch in less than four years, making a short but telling appearance as Pinamenti in the 17th century political/religious epic ‘The Abdication’ 1974.
This was to be his last big screen role although he was offered a modest assortment of television work during the remainder of the seventies, the pick of which was his portrayal of Riah, in a faithful version of Charles Dickens’ ‘Our Mutual Friend’ in 1976. His last ever appearance as an actor was as the chronicler Time As Chorus, in Jane Howell’s decidedly stylised 1981 television adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘The Winter’s Tale’.
His death in April 1982 was sudden, despite his years, taking ill in London whilst on pre-production work for the Barbara Striesand musical ‘Yentl’. Harold Goldblatt was one of Ireland’s great actor/managers, without perhaps the flamboyance of MacLiammoir or the discipline of Anew McMaster, but he did possess enough guile and enthusiasm to help create an era of cultural enlightenment which flourished in that vital period of Ulster theatre history.
Other Theatre, Film and TV credits:
(All Group Theatre, Belfast)
– Master Adams (1949)
– My Brother Tom (1952)
– Danger, Men Working(1953)
– That Woman at Rathard (1955)
– The Big Donkey (1964) Troxy, Belfast
– Rooney (1958)
– The Reluctant Saint (1962)
– The Mindbenders (1962)
– Children of the Damned (1963)
– Nine Hours to Rama (1963)
– The Reptile (1966)
– Vingt-Cinquieme Heure, La (1967)
– Sunday Night Theatre (1959)
– Armchair Theatre (1960)
– On Trail (1960)
– Path Finders in Space (1960)
– Coronation Street (1961)
– Ghost Squad (1964)
– The Human Jungle (1964)
– The Danger Man(1965)
– Dr. Finlay’s Casebook (1966)
– Softly Softly (1968)
– Hadleigh (1969)
– The Persuaders (1971)
– Van Der Valk (1972)
– The Devil’s Crown (1978)
Dan (Adrian) Gordon
Born Belfast 1961
Purposeful and reliable theatre actor/director, long associated with the Belfast’s Lyric Theatre, who after graduating from Stranmillis College, where he studied drama and physical education, appeared in several amateur productions at the Lyric Drama Studio.
He then joined the Lyric Players in 1982, working as an assistant stage director and that year took to the boards in his first role as a professional actor, playing a painter in ‘A Touch of Class’, a Martine Garbacz and Leon Rubin reworking of Moliere’s play,’Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme’. He was thrust into the breach in 1983, with roles in productions such as WB Yeats’ ‘Yeats in Limbo’, Christina Reid’s ‘Tea in a China Cup’ and in Martin Lynch’s ‘Castles in the Air’, played Eddie Fullerton, son of Stella McCusker and Mark Mulholland.
In the mid eighties he ventured beyond Belfast, appearing in Robin Glendinning’s ‘Mumbo Jumbo’ at Manchester Royal Exchange in 1986 and in 1987 made his television debut as Tom, in the Graham Reid/Bernard Farrell locally produced comedy series, ‘Foreign Bodies’, which ran until 1989. He was more adventurous on stage in the nineties, working with Dubbeljoint Theatre Company in the Marie Jones adaptation, ‘The Government Inspector’, presented at Theatre On The Rock in West Belfast and ‘Independent Voice’ at the Old Museum Arts Centre Belfast, both 1993.
In 1994, again with Dubbeljoint, he took centre stage, quite literally, as Kenneth McAllister, in Marie Jones’ one hander ‘A Night in November’, a role he would reprise years later, playing to rapturous audiences as far afield as New York in 1998 and Perth W.Australia in 2004. His first film appearance was as Inspector McPeake, in director Terry George’s bleak hunger strike study, ‘Some Mother’s Son’ 1996 and at the Grand Opera House Belfast that year, teamed up with Dubbeljoint and Marie Jones again, in ‘Eddie Bottom’s Dream’, in a cast which also featured Conleth Hill.
In 1998, his caricature of loyalist paramilitary Red Hand Luke, in the comedy series ‘Give My Head Peace’, offered him the opportunity to display his stage honed comedic skills to a wider audience, although his appearances were more periodic than regular. Two quite different stage productions in 2000, saw him produce a TMA award nomination for his performance in Patrick Marber’s ‘Dealers Choice’ at the Lyric and at the Group Theatre, in another collaboration with Marie Jones, played a central role in her admirable homage to legendary Belfast born singer, Ruby Murray, entitled ‘Ruby’. His working relationship with both Jones and the Lyric continued into the new century, with the poignant, ‘The Blind Fiddler’ in 2003 and the knockabout comedy ‘A Very Weird Manor’ 2005, which was preceded by a small part as The Preacher, in Terry Loane’s comedy drama ‘Mickybo and Me’, 2004.
In recent times he has flirted with stage direction and was at the helm of the 2006 Irish touring production of Hugh Leonard’s ‘Da’, with a cast including Coronation Street’s Charles Lawson and the ever evolving Olivia Nash. Further Belfast stage appearances saw him play multiple roles in Tim Loane’s comedy ‘To Be Sure’, at the Lyric in 2007 and bicycle repair shop owner Frank Stock, in Stewart Parker’s early seventies, Belfast set musical play,‘Spokesong’, presented at the Old Northern Bank in 2008. In 2010, at the Shipyard Church, Belfast, he presented his own lovingly created piece, ‘The Boat Factory’, a homage to the deep-rooted shipbuilding community in East Belfast. Over the following three years, the imposing two-hander enjoyed successful presentations at a number of venues, including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2012 and the 59E59 Theatres, New York in 2013. On -screen work during 2010/2011, was minimal, and amounted to a brief sighting as Julian, in director Colin McIvor’s comedy ‘Cup Cake’ 2010 and as farmer, Mick O’Shea in writer Brendan McCarthy’s supernatural horror ‘Wake Wood’ in 2011. On stage in 2015, he was in a better place, appearing as the perpetually inebriated Adolphus Grigson, in a revival of Sean O’Casey’s enduring, ‘The Shadow of a Gunman’, directed by Wayne Jordan at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast.
An unabashed theatre activist, Dan Gordon has for over twenty years, enthusiastically contributed to the wellbeing of Ulster drama and has during that time, conjured up more than a few bright moments of his own along the way.
Other Theatre, Film and TV credits:
– Twelfth Night (1983) Lyric Theatre, Belfast
– Charlie Gorilla (1989) Lyric Theatre, Belfast
– To Be Sure (2007) Lyric Theatre, Belfast
– God of Carnage(2015) The Mac Theatre, Belfast
– Relative Strangers (1999)
– A Year of Greater Love(2012)
– The Fall(2014)
Born Belfast 1967
Uncompromising, somewhat dour character actor who has under achieved on stage, but nevertheless has produced a steady work- rate on screen.
An early London stage appearance saw him take a lowly credit as a servant in director Tim Albery’s 1990 adaptation of Jean Racine’s 17th century French tragedy, ‘ Berenice ‘, a National Theatre production performed on the Cottesloe stage. In Belfast a year later and in a more noteworthy role, he made his Lyric Theatre debut as Jimmy, in Robert Ellison’s aspirational drama, ‘Rough Beginnings’. His first film appearance was impressive, playing the decidedly shifty Packy, in writer/director Johnny Gogan’s small budget, Dublin set drama, ‘The Bargain Shop’ 1992, which also featured Newry born Emer McCourt.
In 1993 he was back on the Lyric stage in Jennifer Johnston’s ‘How Many Miles to Babylon’ and made his television bow that year as Alex Mallie in Belfast writer Ronan Bennett’s IRA revenge drama ‘Love Lies Bleeding’.
He was fortunate to be cast, albeit in small roles, in two Neil Jordan feature films, first as Tom Cullen in ‘Michael Collins’ 1996 and as a priest in ‘The Butcher Boy’ 1997 and from this exposure he enjoyed a steady stream of film and television work over the next ten years.
On stage at The Abbey in 1998 he was faultless as UDA man Kyle, co-starring with Patrick O’Kane in Gary Mitchell’s Rathcoole recollection, ‘As the Beast Sleeps’ and at the Lyric Belfast in 1999, received favourable notices in Frank McGuinness’ ‘Carthaginians’.
In 2000 he teamed up with Mitchell again in the Royal Court’s production of ‘The Force of Change’, this time on the right side of the law, as RUC officer David Davis and although he was very much at ease in these Belfast based paramilitary inspired works, he could not it seemed free himself from the merry go round of illiberal ethnicity.
Notable screen roles from 2000 included a reprise of his stage role as Kyle in the television adaptation of ‘As the Beast Sleeps’ in 2002, Brother Whelan in director Aisling Walsh’s ‘Song for a Raggy Boy’, a tell it as it was depiction of life in a rural Irish boys home in the late thirties and as bereaved father Victor Barker in the acclaimed television docudrama, ‘Omagh’ 2004.
In 2005 he featured regularly as Dr. Richard McKenna in the less than stimulating RTE series ‘The Clinic’ and a year later appeared alongside Kathy Kiera Clarke in writer/director Niall Healy’s film comedy drama, ‘Small Engine Repair’, shot on location in Northern Ireland. He travelled further south in 2007 for writer Barry Simner’s Connemara set murder mystery ‘Single Handed’, a largely cogent mini-series, playing the subsidiary role of Johnny Mallon , in an exclusively Irish cast headed by Ian McElhinney and Owen McDonnell.
He was a perfectly observed prison officer, Raymond Lohan, in writer/director Steve McQueen’s award winning ‘Hunger’ 2008, which featured a bravura performance by Michael Fassbender as hunger striking IRA icon Bobby Sands. A brace of smaller screen roles in 2010 gave him little or no chance to shine, a case perhaps of one step forward and two steps back. In director Larysa Kondracki’s fractured film drama, ‘Whistleblower’, he barely squeezed into the credits and he fared no better in ‘Christopher and His Kind’, a television dramatization of the 1977 autobiography of writer Christopher Isherwood, filmed on location in Belfast, with’ Doctor Who’, Matt Smith in the title role.
In 2011 he landed a leading role as the haughty psychiatrist Hugh Dent in an adaptation of Francis Veber’s French farce, ‘ The Painkiller’ at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast, in a quality cast including Kenneth Branagh and Rob Brydon. At the Gate Theatre, Dublin in 2012, he was a very laudable Charlie, in Hugh Leonard’s Tony Award winning, modern Irish classic ‘Da’, directed by Toby Frow, which also featured John Kavanagh and Ingrid Craigie. His screen output continued at a pace, with significant parts in Allan Cubitt’s psychological crime/ drama series ‘The Fall’, 2013/14 and in the same genre, debut director Mark Abraham’s feature, ‘Peterman’ 2014.
An industrious 2015 saw him in writer/director Corin Hardy’s Irish produced horror -fest ‘The Hallow’ and in a solid recurring role as Forrester, in the television series ‘The Frankenstein Chronicles’, starring Sean Bean. In 2016 he took a prominent credit as Donny, in another independent production, Ciaran Creagh’s social drama ‘In View’, in a cast including Ciaran McMenamin and Gerard McSorley. On television the same year, he was convincing as Angus Moxam, father of kidnap victim Ivy, played with controlled sensitivity by Jodie Comer, in writer Marnie Dickens’ disturbing drama series, ‘Thirteen’.
Stuart Graham has proved an adept exponent of indigenous screen drama since the early nineties, but his commitment to theatre remains ambivalent which presents a problem when determining a critical appraisal of his proficiency.
Other Theatre, Film and TV credits:
– The Silver Tassie(1994) Almeida Theatre, London
– Alternative Future (1994) Old Museum Arts Centre, Belfast
– In a Little World of Our Own (1997) Abbey Theatre, Dublin
– A Number (2007) Peacock Theatre, Dublin
– Pump Girl (2008) Queens Drama Studio, Belfast
– The Home Place(2009) Grand Opera House, Belfast
– National Anthem(2010) Baby Grand, Belfast
– Molly Sweeney(2013) Paint Room Theatre, London
– The Informant (1997)
– Goldfish Memory (2003)
– Hunger (2008)
– In Defence (2000)
– Steel River Blues (2004)
Born Belfast 19th May 1931
Diffident but polished character actor, who enjoyed a local high profile career as a continuity announcer with the then fledgling UTV from its inception in October 1959 until 1965. Before that however he was active on stage and was a familiar face at the Group and Arts Theatres during the fifties. He made an early appearance as Marks Mongan in the Arts Theatre production of Donagh McDonagh’s ‘God’s Gentry’ in 1951 and appeared in a number of plays at The Group in the early fifties, most notably ‘Dust Under Our Feet’ 1953, ‘The Woman at Rathard’ and St. John Greer Ervine’s ‘Martha’, both 1955. He then spent some time with an English repertory company from the mid- fifties and was a minor cast member in Peter Brook’s star studded RSC production of ‘ Titus Andronicus’, which undertook a short European tour in 1957 and featured such stage behemoths as Laurence Olivier, Anthony Quayle and Vivien Leigh. A change of direction brought him back to Belfast in 1959, where a successful job interview saw him take one of the three hot seat vacancies at UTV, in partnership with Adrienne McGuill and Brian Durkin.
In 1965 after more than five years with the station and achieving household name status, he decided to resurrect his acting career and returned to England to scrape a living in regional theatre, rather than become involved in the farce pervading atmosphere at large on the Belfast stage. He had to wait until 1972 and a cursory role as an adjutant in the television series ‘Colditz’, before he was able to climb aboard the minor actors conveyor belt, where he remained for more than thirty years, a perfunctory player in a glut of unexceptional roles. In 1974 he crossed the Atlantic to appear as Jess White, in Hugh Leonard’s poignant play ‘Summer’, at the Olney Theatre Maryland and back on British television was in several mediocre productions during the mid seventies including the series ‘Thriller’ 1975 and ‘Warship’ 1977. He was in better company on the Olivier stage in 1977 in the National Theatre’s presentation of ‘The Plough and the Stars’, but in the bread and butter world of television, he found it almost impossible to secure an acceptable level of quality.
In the early eighties he had a co-starring role in the local television play ‘Iris in the Traffic, Ruby in the Rain’ in 1981 and made a return to the Belfast stage in two Lyric productions, Stewart Parker’s ‘Kingdom Come’ 1982 and Jennifer Johnston’s ‘Indian Summer’ 1983, both of which saw him in strong central roles. On the small screen he secured regular cast appearances as Mr. Trimble in ‘Chocky’ 1984 and Reverend Bartlet in ‘Mapp and Lucia’ 1985, but normal service continued soon after with more low level character roles until the end of the eighties. Now approaching sixty years of age he seemed destined to a future of rummaging for parts in the lower reaches of assorted but routine television fare.
The first of his few film appearances was as Father Peter, in Graham Reid’s overly grim study of the perils of joyriding, the West Belfast set ‘You Me and Marley’ 1992, in which although entirely believable, his character had little screen time to leave a lasting impression. His television work was constant throughout the nineties but he could not land a substantial part in a quality series and instead guested, sometimes fugaciously in popular crime dramas such as ‘Poirot’ and ‘Inspector Alleyn Mysteries’ both 1993. His second feature film role came in writer Michael Hastings’ Oscar nominated ‘Tom and Viv’ 1994, a biographical account of TS Elliot’s relationship with Vivienne Haigh Wood, starring Willem Dafoe and Miranda Richardson and following this brief break from the small screen he was quicky into the fray once again, chalking up yet more low profile appearances. He did however manage one commendable performance, appearing as opthalmic optician Dr. Goddard, in the two part police drama ‘Second Sight’ 1999, starring Clive Owen as the sight deficient DCI.
In Tom Murphy’s controversial play ‘The Sanctuary Lamp’ at the Abbey Theatre Dublin in 2001, he again proved that he was a better stage performer than his screen credentials would imply, with his near perfect portrayal of the Monsignor gaining him much deserved praise. From 2000 he has worked continuously on film and television but has rarely been afforded the opportunity to expand his range beyond that of the casting director’s comfort zone,a mindset he has philosophically accepted from the 1980’s. Notable appearances from that period included his masonic governor in the latest Jack the Ripper hypothesis ‘From Hell’ 2001 and the same year played Donal Maguire in writer/director Jane Prowse’s television murder mystery ‘Green Eyed Monster.’
He later achieved a semblance of small screen recognition as Arnold in the three season comedy drama series ‘William and Mary’ appearing in all eighteen episodes from 2003-2005 and in 2007 had his customary minor but this time effective role in director Tyler Ford’s quirky romantic film ‘Piccadilly Cowboy’. It seemed advancing age could not stymie his ambitions, as he racked up numerous, albeit low-key screen appearances from 2008, employing only a small fraction of his central casting repertoire in the process. He did assume the role of a judge in writer/director Guy Ritchie’s crime thriller ‘ RocknRolla ‘ 2008, but produced a variety of deft character turns, peripherally credited across a swathe of subject matter, principally on television.
On stage at the Orange Tree in Richmond that same year he conjured up a delightful performance as the faithful and often inebriated old retainer Oswald, in Vaclav Havel’s irrationally structured tragicomedy ‘ Leaving ‘. Brief guest roles in a number of popular television series during 2009/10 were of little consequence, with only his appearances as William Hickey in ‘ Kingdom ‘ 2009 and Wellington in the comedy ‘ How To Live Your Life ‘ 2010, worthy of mention. More significant film work in 2010 came in Guy Daniels’ emotionally charged, senior citizens love story, the rural English set ‘ Love/Loss ‘ in which he played one half of an ideal casting as the dependable, forgetful Laurie, opposite screen and actual partner Diana Payan.
His screen work between 2011/2015, was for the most part, a relentless schedule of small scale character roles, but included in the expansive list were a number of rewarding television credits. In 2012 he was Old Ian, in six episodes of Julia Davis’ darkly comic, early 19th century set ‘Hunderby’ and during a two season run in writer Joy Wilkinson’s ‘The Life and Adventures of Nick Nickleby’, played Mr Cobbey, in a cast heavily weighted with Ulster born actors. Another extended television role was his John Hubble, long serving Head of Science at Greybridge School, in David Walliams’ somewhat contrived sitcom, ‘Big School’, first aired in 2013. Less significant were guest appearances in the series. ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Shetland’, both 2013 and the lavish television adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s ‘Wolf Hall’ 2015.
James Greene it seems played two distinctive types for the majority of his screen career, his clerics and judges were honed to perfection and sustained him, not inconsiderably, through the years.
Other Theatre, Film and TV credits:
– Henry V(1957) Birmingham Repertory Theatre
– James Joyce and the Israelites (1982) Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith
– Chance Visitor (1984) Palace Theatre, Watford
– The Playboy of the Western World(1994) Ameida Theatre, London
– Nan (2007) Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond
– Johnny English (2003)
– Piccadilly Cowboy(2005)
– Sherlock Holmes(2009)
– Target (1977)
– Secret Army (1978)
– The Year of the French (1983)
– Floodtide (1987)
– My Brother’s Keeper (1995)
– Heartbeat (1999)
– Holby City (2005)
– Christmas at the Riviera (2007)
– The Colour of Magic(2008)
– Midsomer Murders(2010)
– Edge of Heaven(2014)