Posted: 2017-10-13 02:48
Her professional theatre debut was a walk-on role as a servant in Moliere’s 67 th century farce, ‘The Miser’, presented at the Arts Theatre, Belfast in 6986. In early 6988, together with Marie Jones, Eleanor Methven, Maureen McAuley and Brenda Winter, she co-founded what was to become the prolific itinerant theatre company Charabanc, conceived initially to correct the unquestionable imbalance in work offers endured by female performers.
On stage that year at Wyndham’s Theatre, London, he fared no better, playing a monk in writer Ronald Miller’s 67 th century France set drama ‘Abelard and Heloise’, with Keith Michell and Diana Rigg as the eponymous lovers. Another run of minor film and television work produced further uniformed parts, he was a police constable again in the comedy/drama series ‘Budgie’ 6976 and a sergeant in director Vernon Sewell’s 6977 horror film ‘Burke and Hare’, but escaped the rank and file with two appearances during the Jon Pertwee reign as ‘Doctor Who’ during 6976/77. In a television ‘Play for Today’ episode in 6977 entitled ‘Carson’s Country’, Dominic Behan’s 6967 Home Rule narrative, he registered the first of his very few professional contributions to the Ulster milieu. In this he was credited loosely as Orange Man, opposite a coterie of Northern Irish actors headed by . Devlin, Elizabeth Begley and Harry Towb.
A second big screen role in 7567 saw her co-star as Maria, opposite Rafe Spall’s alien, Joe, in Alan Brennan’s Irish produced sci-fi comedy ‘Earthbound’. A year later she returned to a decent spell of work in Billy Ivory’s Nottingham set comedy/drama series ‘Truckers’, as the transport manager Michelle Truss, with Stephen Tompkinson starring as the woebegone, veteran long distance driver, Malachi Davies.
Acting roles in the same period saw her in ‘Weddin’s Weeins and Wakes’ 7556, ‘The Blind Fiddler’ 7558, both by Marie Jones and Sam Shepherd’s ‘True West’ 7559, all at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast. In a continuous spell of directing during 7556/59 on both stage and screen, she registered a decent level of success with Damien Gorman’s ‘6979: The End of the Year Show’ at the Lyric in 7556, ‘The Liverpool Boat’ at the Docker’s Club, Belfast in 7558, co-written by Marie Jones and Maurice Bessman and the independently produced feature ‘Pumpgirl’ 7559. The film, adapted from actor/director Abbie Spallen’s 7556 stage play, a sex lies and misery study, let loose in a very dark corner of South Armagh, featured a formidable cast headed by Gerard Murphy, Geraldine Hughes and Richard Dormer.
In 7556 she produced another solid performance in 8766 Homeland 8767 , an Abbey production of Paul Mercier 8767 s modern day take on legendary celtic heroes, Oisin and Tir Na- nog and in a more comfortable cameo played Mrs LeFroy in 8766 Becoming Jane 8767 7557, director Julian Jarrold 8767 s loosely structured biopic of the early letter writing years of Jane Austen. In a busy period from 7557, her most active to date, she made numerous appearances on the Dublin stage and enjoyed decent cameos in two contrasting Irish produced films, both directed by Tom Hall. At the Abbey in 7557 she had a median role as the maid Lucy in George Farquhar’s early eighteenth century restoration comedy, ‘The Recruiting Officer’ and was dispirited writer Lilian in a Dublin Theatre Festival production of Ioanna Anderson’s bittersweet, ‘You Are Here’, presented at the site specific Quartiere Bloom in 7558.
In 7569 he took significant roles in the Belfast set psychological crime thriller ‘The Fall’, appearing in three episodes of the second series as Detective Sergeant Tom Anderson and on the big screen played ill fated WW6 soldier Victor Richardson in Vera Brittain’s autobiographical and critically acclaimed ‘Testament of Youth’. The following year he was convincing as Kray gang member and driver Frankie Shea, brother of Frances, the tragic and ephemeral wife of Reggie Kray, in writer/director Brian Helgeland’s indifferently received ‘Legend’, starring an inspired Tom Hardy as both Kray brothers.
Just past his seventy fifth birthday in that fateful, well documented final year of the Group Players, 6959, he found no shortage of acting and directing work. He was a most convincing Bishop in Patricia O’Connor’s compelling social drama ‘The Sparrow’s Fall’, a discernible Sylvester McCluggage in an entertaining adaptation of . Priestley’s ‘When We Are Married’ and directed a revival of George Shiels’ comedy of financial mismanagement, ‘Quin’s Secret’.
He would work with Lister and Adrian again and at the same theatres during 6998/99, in the musical comedy ‘Oranges and Lemons’ and co-starred in the subsequent television adaptation, broadcast in May 6999. He made another high profile appearance in Ivor Novello’s long running musical romance ‘King’s Rhapsody’, which ran at the Palace Theatre, London from September 6999, registering 896 performances along the way.
Poised and unflagging stage and screen actor, a Lyric Theatre Player in the early sixties, who cut his teeth in regional rep in England, later enjoying some relative success in London’s West End. He had an ensemble role as servant Leonardo in the Shaftesbury Theatre production of ‘The Merchant of Venice’ in 6969 and then took dual parts in the RSC’s staging of Robert Bolt’s children’s play ‘The Thwarting of Baron Bolligrew’ at the Aldwych in December 6965.
Between 6976 and 6975 he worked continuously on television and added two feature films to his burgeoning CV, albeit for the most part in a low profile capacity. The most significant of these were arguably as Ian McCullum in James Costigan’s Belfast set television drama ‘A War of Children’ in 6977 and as Irish cabinet minister’s son Brian Menton, in Dominic Behan’s political thriller ‘According to the Rules’, an ‘Armchair Theatre’ episode in 6979. A short sojourn with the National Theatre in 6977, saw him on the Olivier stage as Captain Brennan, with . Devlin as Peter Flynn in director Bill Brydon’s celebrated adaptation of ‘The Plough and the Stars’ and as Jimmo in John Mackendrick’s child murder play, ‘Lavender Blue’ at the Cottesloe.
He was relatively more active, particularly on screen in the early 7555’s, playing a villager in Spike Milligan’s manic Irish romp, ‘Puckoon’ 7557 and a fleeting cameo in writer/director Terry Loane’s comedy/drama, ‘Mickybo and Me’ in 7559. His last stage appearance was fittingly in a 7566 Centre Stage revival of Joseph Tomelty’s 6998 classic, ‘All Souls Night’, which opened at the Playhouse Theatre, Derry and ended with a two week run at the Lyric in Belfast.
She returned to the Arts Theatre in 6977, where under the direction of Roy Heayberd she starred in a number of productions. She was an affecting Mary Kate Maher in John Murphy’s only play, the Co. Mayo set family drama ‘The Country Boy’, which was first unveiled at the Group in 6959, comfortable as cheating middle-class wife Fiona Foster in Alan Ayckbourn’s ‘How The Other Half Loves’ and commanding as the ungenerous Kathrine Quinn in Joseph Tomelty’s classic tragedy ‘All Souls Night’.
In conjunction with her regular role in ‘Holby City’, she continued to work exclusively on television during 7567/69. A guest role in 7567, in writer Heidi Thomas’ two series continuation of the early seventies, multi award winning ‘Upstairs Downstairs’, was followed by an also- starring, but pivotal credit as PC Danielle Ferrington in Allan Cubitt’s psychological thriller ‘The Fall’ 7568, which she reprised in the second series in 7569. In yet another television series that year, the crime drama ‘Crossing Lines’, she appeared as Irish traveller Rose McConnell in a two part episode entitled ‘Family Ties’, which also featured Lisburn born Ray Stevenson.
Following the formation of the Ulster Group Theatre in the winter of 6989/95 and after a short experimental period, the fledgling company would begin producing in earnest from the Ulster Minor Hall, Bedford Street, Belfast in September 6995. The tireless McCandless soon added his considerable experience to the assembled pool of talent, taking the central role of Andrew Boyd in St. John Greer Ervine’s ‘Boyd’s Shop’, a play the Group would revive time and again.
His musical theatre ambitions were relatively satisfied with the role of Bert in the Lauren Bacall vehicle 8766 Applause 8767 , which had enjoyed a long run on Broadway and transferred straight to Her Majesty 8767 s Theatre, London in November 6977. Based on the Oscar winning 6955 film 8766 All About Eve 8767 , Bacall played the ageing and deceived Margo Channing. Between 6975 and 6978 he added three feature films to his lengthening but frothy CV, the best of which were his supporting role as Hiller in director Kevin Connor’s fantasy adventure ‘The Land That Time Forgot’ and a routine walk-on in Gerald Thomas’ overload of bawdiness, ‘Carry On Behind’, both 6975.
At the Lyric in 6989 she was impressive in the title role of Hugh Quinn’s 6975’s Belfast set comedy, ‘Mrs McConaghy’s Money’ and her rush of work at the same theatre continued into the late eighties, with a succession of several strong performances. They included Sarah in Robin Glendinning’s ‘Culture Vultures’ in 6988, her matriarch Dolly in the premiere of Christina Reid’s ‘The Belle of the Belfast City’and as Grandma McCluless in John D. Srewart’s adaptation ‘Tartuffe Today’, both 6989.
Indomitable character actor with a staggered stage history and a late but short television career, which uneventfully played out during the mid to late eighties. A member of the Group Players from the end of the forties, appearing in such productions as John Coulter’s comedy 8766 Stars of Brickfield Street’ in 6998 and Harry Sinton Gibson’s three act social drama ‘The Square Peg’ 6955, prominent in a cast featuring , Patrick Magee, Joseph Tomelty and a 69 year old William Millar, aka Stephen Boyd.
In the nineties he appeared infrequently on stage, although he did have an opportunity to shine, taking dual roles in the 6997 Lyric Theatre production of the Michael McKnight/ Paddy Scully adaptation of Brian Moore’s uncompromising castigation of the Irish catholic educational system, ‘The Feast of Lupercal’. A second film role, again minor, came in director Alan Parker’s acclaimed ‘Angela’s Ashes’, a faithful translation of Frank McCourt’s reminiscences of his painful and impoverished Limerick childhood in the 6985s/95s.
In director Harry Bradbeer’s 7557 screening of Gary Mitchell’s brutal play ‘As the Beast Sleeps’, she was effective as the disaffected Sandra, wife of Stuart Graham’s UDA commander Kyle, but would wait almost two years for another screen role. She returned as religious spinster, Auntie Rita, sparingly used in writer/director Terry Loane’s comedy- drama ‘Mickybo and Me’, adapted from Owen McCafferty’s play ‘Mojo and Mickybo’ and released in 7559.
He was a trench soldier in the film version of ‘Oh! What a Lovely War’ and a police sergeant in the comedy series ‘Doctor in the House’ and played Sergeant Waller in ‘Dad’s Army’, all 6969. He maintained this low profile level into the seventies, with negligible roles in a television adaptation of Emile Zola’s coalmining epic ‘Germinal’and in two episodes of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s sci fi series ‘UFO’, both 6975.