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The Belle of Belfast (Los Angeles)

Published by: Irish Reviewers on 11th Oct 2012 | View all blogs by Irish Reviewers
The Irish national cause receives a resounding reception through the LA production “The Belle of Belfast”. The new original play is set during the "Troubles" in Northern Ireland in 1985 and centres around a seventeen-year-old school girl, Anne Malloy who is lost and angry after the senseless killing of her parents by a terrorist bomb. Like many who suffered and survived during Northern Ireland's "troubles", she turns to the comforts of the Catholic Church. However, her passion is not just for the church. Anne Malloy is played by American born Sarah Gise brilliantly. With her well-polished Belfast accent she captures you with emotional depth superbly from start to finish. This is Gise’s first professional production. Daniel Blinkoff takes on the role of Father Reilly, a priest dealing with the confession box in Belfast while questioning whether to act on his impure thoughts or not. Blinkoff masterfully reproduces the prototypical catholic priest. The absolute “man of the match” has to go to Father Behan played by Dublin born Billy Meleady. He plays the supporting role of the older priest with humour, excellent character and one or two too many whiskeys! From his personality, hilarious banter and wit you can’t help but love how Meleady plays Father Behan. The first time published playwright, Nate Rufust Edelman, was born in Los Angeles in 1983. He began studying drama at Trinity College in 2004 for 4 years while living with a flatmate from Belfast. The show is currently on a 4 to 6 week run at AtWater Village Theatre in Los Angeles. What is particularly likeable about this production is how Edeleman treated the conflict between celibacy and sexuality, while keeping his story relevant to the time. Cleverly including Irish folklore songs such as “The Belle of Belfast”, Edelman depicts the harsh reality of Belfast in 1985 beautifully. Edelman’s playwriting career should be interesting to keep an eye on. The cast consists of five actors played superbly under the direction of Claudia Weill. Their excellent Belfast accents were polished by dialect coach Austin Grehan. Grehan is from Ballymun, Co. Dublin and is currently based in Los Angeles. This production is currently funded by Atwater Village Theatre under a private benefactor. The venue is recently established and is situated in a low key area in the middle of Atwater Village, Los Angeles. It has its own bar, seats 70 occupants and supports its own theatre company, EST (Ensemble Studio Theatre).

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Irish Reviewers were lucky enough to catch Billy Meleady for a short interview. Here’s how it went: Irish Reviewers: Where are you from? Billy: I’m from Coolock, Dublin, Ireland

Irish Reviewers: How were you cast for this production? Billy: The Director and playwright both wanted me after I worked with them on a staged reading of an earlier draft on Martha's Vineyard. And they got me!

Irish Reviewers: What is your favourite scene for Father Behan? I don't have a favourite scene, they all string together beautifully.

Irish Reviewers: How many years have you been acting? Almost 25 years

Irish Reviewers: How long where you in rehearsals for? It was a 5 and a half week rehearsal period.

Irish Reviewers: Where were you accommodated while on this project in LA? We found wonderful accommodation with terrific people in Studio City who are now dear friends.

Irish Reviewers: What do you love or hate most about performing in theatre? I've always loved story-telling, I just love live audiences. (Much better than dead ones.) There's nothing I hate about theatre.

Irish Reviewers: What was Nate like to work with? Wonderful to work with, always very flexible, he has the utmost respect for actors. The director Claudia was wonderful to work with. Beyond her directing, she was crucial to the shaping of the script.

Irish Reviewers: Do you think the script does 1985 justice? I think the script does justice to Belfast of the 1980s.

Irish Reviewers: Billy, what is it that makes you particularly love and perform theatre as an actor? I love the collaboration of all aspects in the medium - actors, directors, designers, etc. I love the creative process that leads to the telling of the story. Of course, how can you put that into words, that energy that is manifested in the sharing of a story in a room with a live audience? It's magical and very fulfilling.

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