I

I

Andrea Irvine

Born Dunmurry 1967

Industrious, practised, stage and occasional screen actor, who began her career shortly after graduating from St. Andrews University in 1988. Early work included appearances at the Old Museum Arts Centre, Belfast in roles such as Di in Tinderbox’s production of Miche Doherty’s ‘Theatre of Paranoia’ and a double-up as Christine and Mrs Walker in Thomas McLaughlin’s drama ‘Fingertips’, both 1989. A significant boost in her apprenticeship came a short time later, with an invitation from the prestigious Druid Theatre Company in Galway to take the role of Ismene in their competent 1990 translation of Jean Anouil’s 1942 play ‘Antigone’. A move to Dublin was then rewarded with a decent role in Declan Hughes’ reworking of George Farquhar’s comedy ‘Love and a Bottle’ which presented at the Project Arts in 1991. At the Arts Theatre, Belfast in 1993 she was cast as Martirio in Lynn Parker’s adaptation of Frederico Garcia’s ‘The House of Bernarda Alba’, a role she would reprise ten years later in Sebastian Barry’s more expansive revival at the Abbey in 2003. Her film debut as Sara in Paddy Breathnach’s murky and compelling ‘Ailsa’ 1994 was a critical success, but she was lost in the credits in her big screen follow-up, ‘Gold in the Streets’ 1996, director Elizabeth Gill’s Bronx set drama from the play by Janet Noble, starring assured Dubliner Karl Geary and James Belushi. On stage at the Abbey in 1995 she was ideal as the depressive Harper Amity Pitt in Tony Kushner’s engrossing ‘Angels in America’ and maintained her interest in Belfast theatre with a leading role in David Hare’s ‘Skylight’ at the Lyric in 1996. In the late nineties she found work more readily on both stage and screen, but could not yet establish a parity of credit values outside the confines of theatre. A bit part in Jim Sheridan’s ‘The Boxer’ 1997 was an abberation, considering her commendable performance as priggish, bible thumping Deborah in Gary Mitchell’s explosive ‘In a Little World of Our Own’ at the Abbey the same year. At the Gate Theatre Dublin in 1998 she was a comforting ward sister in Sebastian Barry’s acclaimed, fifties Dublin family tragedy, ‘Our Lady of Sligo’, in a  strong cast which included Sinead Cusack and Harry Towb.

Also that year in the crime drama ‘Making the Cut’, the prequel to her 1999 mini-series ‘D.D.U.’, she played Garda Sgt. Moya O’Donnell, opposite the prolific Sean McGinley. Among a raft of Dublin stage successes early in the new millennium, were Alex Johnston’s adaptation of Marlowe’s ‘The Massacre at Paris’ at the Project Arts, Mary Elizabeth Burke-Kennedy’s ‘Women in Arms’ at the Civic Theatre, both 2002 and Frank McGuinness’ translation of Ibsen’s ‘The Wild Duck’ at the Abbey in 2003. On the big screen nothing much had changed despite an appreciable stage reputation and peripheral involvement in director Bruce Beresford’s Irish tear-jerker ‘Evelyn’ 2002 and Tommy O’Haver’s comedy fantasy ‘Ella Enchanted’ 2004, were no more than wasteful diversions from much more important work at large in theatre. She was at least given a sterner test as Leanne, the obsessive compulsive, keeper of dark secrets, sister of loyalist hard-man Tommy, in Belfast born writer Rosemary Jenkinson’s debut play ‘The Bonfire’, which opened at the Project Arts in 2006. A year later at the Abbey she produced another commanding performance as Character A in writer/director Mark O’Rowe’s surreal and alarming three hander ‘Terminus’, which subsequently presented at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2008, winning the coveted Fringe First Award.

The quality of her screen projects in 2008/9 was certainly an improvement from that experienced earlier in the decade. She played Dr Kent in an episode of the medi-soap ‘The Clinic’ 2008, had meaningful film roles in the award winning ‘Five Minutes of Heaven’ starring Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt and the Edna O’Brien adaptation ‘Wild Decembers’, both 2009. She returned to the Lyric Theatre, Belfast in 2012, cast as Lady Macbeth, in director Lynne Parker’s well-received reworking of ‘Macbeth’, opposite an excellent Stuart Graham as the deranged King. On screen she found a steady stream of work, the most noteworthy, her Beth Roberts in Terry Loane’s small budget television drama, ‘At Water’s Edge’, 2012 and that year made multiple appearances as alcoholic mother Alison Burns, in the BBC N. Ireland produced series ‘6Degrees’. In 2014, she had a recurring role as Roisin Hastings, wife of Adrian Dunbar’s, Superintendent Ted Hastings in the crime drama series ‘Line of Duty’. A longer television commitment was her role as Garda Sgt. Angela Tyrell in TV3’s crime drama ‘Red Rock’, written by Peter McKenna and first broadcast in January 2015.  A proven if geographically confined stage player, Andrea Irvine’s early career was regretfully unbalanced by a strangely thin screen profile, which she has subsequently dutifully addressed.

Other Theatre, Film and TV credits:

Theatre

– The Playboy of the Western World(1994) Almeida Theatre, London
– The Whisperers (1999) Belltable Arts Centre, Limerick
– Wonderful Tennessee (2000) Lyric Theatre, Belfast
– The Bacchae of Baghdad (2006) Abbey Theatre, Dublin
– The Real Thing (2009) Gate Theatre, Dublin

– Wonderful Tennessee(2014) Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield

Film

– Sensation(2010)

TV
– Ballykissangel (1996)

 

Blanaid Irvine

 

Born Moneyglass 26th March 1922
Died Dublin 17th January 2010

Judicious and gifted actor/writer who following a debilitating illness in her early twenties, set off on her chosen path in 1948, when aged twenty six she enrolled at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. On her return to Belfast at the turn of the fifties she joined Hubert Wilmot’s Arts Studio Theatre then based in the city’s Upper North Street, appearing in many productions and competing unfortunately with the then prolific Group Players. An Arts Theatre appearance in the title role of ‘Anastasia’ attracted attention from Edward Pakenham’s Longford Players who cast her again as the would –be Russian Grand-Duchess, in a more expansive production at the Gate Theatre Dublin in 1953. This taste of success saw her make another journey south in 1954, which would prove permanent and generate more latitude and potential for a jobbing actor. Notable appearances at that time included Globe Theatre presentations ‘The Seventh Step’ 1954, ‘The Sulky Fire’ and Graham Greene’s ‘The Living Room’ both 1955. A finely tuned performance as Jane White in Edward Lindsay Hogg’s highbrow melodrama ‘The Golden Link’ at the Gate in 1956, preceded a period of screen writing, when during a relatively hectic two years between 1958/9, she worked in collaboration with Patrick Kirwan on the screenplays of three moderately successful small budget oirish films.

Director George Pollock’s ‘Sally’s Irish Rogue’ 1958, adapted from George Shiels’ ‘The New Gosoon’, Louis D’alton’s comedy drama ‘This Other Eden’ and Barry Fitzgerald’s farewell to the screen, ‘Broth of a Boy’, aka Hugh Leonard’s 1956 play ‘The Big Birthday’, both 1959. In 1964 she played Jane Peyton in Stanley Young’s bioplay of Irish American actor Laurette Taylor, ‘Laurette’ at the Olympia Theatre and on screen took a very minor role in director Ken Hughes’ estimable interpretation of W. Somerset Maugham’s novel ‘Of Human Bondage’. Commissioned by RTE, she took a further writing credit in 1966, with an acclaimed adaptation of O’Casey’s ‘The Plough And The Stars’, which won deserved awards for producer Lelia Doolin and leading actor May Cluskey. In May of 1968 she travelled to Belfast with Dublin based Gemini Productions who offered a semblance of conventional theatre with a marvellous production of Patrick Riddell’s pot-boiler ‘Defence In Depth’. The suburban Grove Theatre venue illustrated the lack of legitimate spaces in a rather bourgeois Belfast of the sixties, with both the Group and Arts Theatres ensconced in a seemingly intractable vortex of farce. Later that year during the Dublin Theatre Festival she took a prominent role in the premiere of Tom Murphy’s family drama ‘The Orphans’, taking most of the plaudits with her splendidly understated Kate, the rock in a house of troubled souls. A great tragedy in her own life occurred on Christmas day 1971, when a car in which she was a passenger was involved in a fatal crash, her older sister Eileen was killed and Blanaid seriously injured. Despite this anguish she somehow summoned the resolve to accept the offer of a short term television contract, taking the role of Lady Agnes in a mini-series adaptation of Walter Macken’s ‘Island Of The Great Yellow Ox’ 1972.

Two years would pass before her self imposed exile from the Dublin Theatre circuit was ended, with an appearance in the Abbey’s production of Tomas Mac Anna’s ‘Dear Edward’, performed on the Peacock stage in 1973. In 1977, in partnership with Gavin Freeman, she founded the enthusiastic but unfortunately short lived Domino Theatre Company, which found it difficult to survive in an obviously oversubscribed Dublin of the time. In the early eighties she worked intermittently on stage, giving polished performances as Harriet Armstrong in Eugene McCabe’s ‘Victims’ at the Lyric, Belfast 1981 and as Mrs Wade in Hugh Leonard’s misfiring satire ‘Kill’ at the Olympia Theatre, Dublin in 1982. A rare television sighting in an episode of ‘The Irish RM’ in 1984, her first screen work after an absence of twelve years, would not alter what seemed, was a career deliberately playing out at her own chosen speed. Her last comparatively industrious year in theatre was in 1988 and included two expertly delivered examples of stage playing. In June at the Lyric Belfast she was spellbinding as Trilbe Costello in a sparkling revival of Brian Friel’s ‘The Loves of Cass McGuire’ and in September at the Focus Theatre Dublin, was a flawless Granma in Ena May’s domestic drama,‘She’s Your Mother Too You Know!’ She made her last screen appearances during 1994/95 and in what was remarkably her first feature film, took a low-key role in director Paddy O’Breathnach’s dark tragedy ‘Ailsa’ 1994, and a fleeting cameo as Mrs Glynn in an episode of the cult comedy ‘Father Ted ‘ in 1995.

Blanaid Irvine was infinitely much better than her screen output would suggest, a consummate if underused actor whose standards never waned.

Other Theatre, Film and TV credits:

Theatre

– The Cherry Orchard(1974) Lyric Theatre, Belfast
– Inquiry At Lisieux (1963) Olympia Theatre, Dublin

 

 

Felix Irwin

Born Tynan, Co. Armagh 10th September 1893

Died London 30th November 1950

Efficient stage player, who in a variable career spanning four decades, appeared with theatrical behomoths such as John Gielgud, Edith Evans, Ralph Richardson and Greer Garson. An early West End sighting saw him in a minor role as Paul, in a Christmas fantasy musical, ‘The Great Big World’ at the Court Theatre in 1921, which also marked the debut of a precocious twelve year-old, Patricia Hayes. Regional stage work in 1922 included J.B. Fagan’s ‘The Wheel’ at the New Theatre, Oxford and ‘Oliver Cromwell’ at the Prince’s Theatre, Bristol. Although not in the cast of the two 1926 London productions of T.C. Murray’s melodramic tragedy ‘Autumn Fire’, he did travel with the company to New York that year, opening at the Klaw Theatre on Broadway, playing conflicted lover Michael Keegan.

In London a year later he appeared in an Irish double bill at the Court Theatre, taking a general cast role in Synge’s one-act, Aran Islands set tragedy, ‘Riders to the Sea’ and as tenement landlord Mr. Mulligan in the first of O’Casey’s Dublin trilogy, ‘The Shadow of a Gunman’. Following his median credit as Terry Sanding in Emlyn Williams’ ‘Full Moon’ at the Arts Theatre, London in January 1929, he relocated to the Little Theatre in Charing Cross for director Frank Vernon’s ‘Red Rust’, featuring the fast emerging John Gielgud. A few months later he joined Sheffield Repertory Company, appearing most notably in Linnie Sherwood’s supernatural thriller ‘Gray Ash’, staged in October 1929. Further creditable work in Sheffield included his avaricious Mr. Burgess in G.B. Shaw’s so called serious comedy, ‘Candida’ in 1930. Between 1931/32 he made numerous appearances with Birmingham Rep, the best of which were Clemence Dane’s tragedy ‘Granite’ 1931, Welmer Rice’s New York kaleidoscope, ‘Street Scene’, Margaret Kennedy’s romantic drama ‘The Constant Nymph’ and Eden Phillpot’s comedy ‘Jane’s Legacy’, all 1932.

He returned to the London stage in January 1933, appearing at the Arts as Dr. Downey in Paul Vincent Carroll’s debut play ‘Things That Are Caesar’s’. He also had a small supporting role in Lynd Nathan and Joseph Fraser’s drama ‘The Voice’, presented at the Kingsway in April 1933. In November of that year he took a central credit as Maso in director Hugh Miller’s adaptation of Giovacchino’s comedy ‘Cabbages and Kings’, staged at the Ambassadors, in a cast starring Laurier Lister and Stephen Murray. In 1934 he was recruited by John Gielgud for a regional tour with Gordon Daviot’s extraordinarily successful ‘Richard of Bordeaux’, which had opened in February 1933, with Gielgud as director and star, in what is now prevailingly recognized as his career defining role.

He worked sparingly in high profile London theatre for the remainder of the thirties, but was fortunate to secure parts in a series of commendable productions, between 1935/39. He played Dr. Schweig, opposite Ralph Richardson’s eponymous failed businessman in J.B.Priestley’s ‘Cornelius’, at the Duchess Theatre in March 1935 which was followed by C.L.R. James’ historical drama ‘Toussaint Louverture’, starring an inspired Paul Robeson, which ran for two scheduled performances at the Westminster Theatre in March 1936. Other significant plays in the late thirties included Dorothy L. Sayers’ blank verse drama, ‘The Zeal of Thy House’ at the Garrick in 1938 and was the butler, Merriman in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’at the Globe in 1939. The latter boasted a cast of Gielgud, who also directed, Edith Evans and Margaret Rutherford. His screen debut in 1938 was as the 1st Earl of Oxford, Robert Harley in Norman Ginsbury’s 18th century set ‘Viceroy Sarah’, a live studio play from the BBC, directed by George More O’Ferrall. He was back at the Globe in 1940, again with Gielgud, playing Major Gosling in Noel Coward’s sparkling short comedy, ‘Hands Across the Sea’.

Prestigious stage output during the forties was scant, but worked with Gielgud once more in Eric Linklater’s comedy ‘Crisis in Heaven’ at the Lyric in 1944, with the master of whimsy Ernest Thesiger in customary top form. In 1945 he enjoyed a reasonable run at the Prince’s Theatre in director Norman Marshall’s musical ‘Three Waltzes’ and toured in writer James Parish’s three act comedy, ‘Truant in Park Lane’, which opened at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow in February 1947.

A belated return to television that year saw him as a police surgeon in director Fred O’Donovan’s crime drama ‘The Strange Case of Blondie White’ and reprised his role of Riggs in the live BBC adaptation of ‘Truant in Park Lane’, screened in August 1947. In 1949 Fred O’Donovan offered him the part of the butler, Marlow in another television play, John Galsworthy’s comedy ‘The Silver Box’, performed live from the Intimate Theatre, Palmers Green, London. His screen farewell was in April 1950, in an episode of BBC’s Sunday Night Theatre, entitled ‘March Hares’, directed by by the prolific Fred O’Donovan.

In the weeks before his death, director Alec Clunes cast him as the manservant Brabner in Arthur Wing Pinero’s religious farce ‘Preserving Mr. Panmure’, a role he could not fulfill, withdrawing soon after opening at the Arts Theatre, London on the 15th November 1950. Felix Irwin’s career, although unheralded, was rewarding nevertheless, a stage foot soldier who frequently rubbed shoulders with giants of the age.

 

 

Other Theatre credits:

-Yellow Sands(1928) Birmingham Rep

-By Candlelight(1931), Birmingham Rep

-R.u.r.(1931) Birmingham Rep

-Bird In Hand(1931), Birmingham Rep

-Mr. Pym Passes By(1931) Birmingham Rep

-Many Waters(1932) Birmingham Rep(1932)

-The Barretts of Wimpole Street(1932) Birmingham Rep

-Dear Octopus(1939) Tour, The Paragon(1949) Theatre Royal, Stratford East