Jim’s lifelong interest and involvement with theatre began under the expert tutelage of the late and legendary Mary O’Malley, founder of the Belfast Lyric Theatre. All actors and directors associated with this iconic theatre, particularly in its earliest Derryvolgie Avenue location, were schooled in the inspirational disciplines of classical and modern theatre serving their much appreciated and artistically defining apprenticeships in Shakespeare, 0’Casey, Synge, Chekhov, Ibsen, Dostoevsky and, of course, the canon of Yeats plays for which Mary O’Malley had an abiding love.This extensive repertoire, with its purposeful mixture of dramatic styles, injected a passion for theatre into the artistic bloodstreams of all those fortunate enough to have enjoyed the experience.
That passion has informed Jim’s continued involvement in theatre throughout his university days and into his professional working life. A first Honours historian and alumni of the U.S. Federal Executive Institute and the Salzburg Seminar, Jim had a long career in the UK Senior Civil Service, working mainly in London, and in Washington, Brussels and Belfast on a range of political, legislative, and economic issues. This enabled him to see both the best of professional theatre in London, and to pursue an active involvement with a number of amateur drama groups including Holywood Players, Bangor Drama Group, Theatre 3, and, more recently, with the Web Theatre in Newtownards.
On stage Jim has won the Best Actor award at the Dundalk International Festival (C.S. Lewis in Williamson’s Shadowlands; and twice won the A.U.D.F. Best Actor at the Lyric (Lopakhin in Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard; and Thomas More in Bolt’s Man For All Seasons). In addition Jim has won many Festival awards for a wide range and variety of roles including works by Friel (Boyle in Philadelphia Here I Come; Jack in Give Me Your Answer Do); Arthur Miller (Danforth in The Crucible; Henry in The Last Yankee); Schaeffer (Venticellil in Amadeus); Harold Pinter (Gus in The Dumb Waiter); Jennifer Johnson (Max in Andante un Pocco Mosso; Tony in The Invisible Man) – the latter winning the overall U.K. One Act Award for Holywood Players.
Jim has also directed and devised a number of plays for various drama groups, which has enabled him to pursue a personal interest in the First World War period. In addition to playing Old Pyper in the iconic Frank McGuinness play Observe The Sons Of Ulster Marching To The Somme, an overall A.U.D.F. award winner for Bangor Drama Group, he has directed R.C.Sherrifs Journeys End for the Web Theatre and both devised and directed And In The Morning a requiem of remembrance honouring the war time sacrifices of Irish and British soldiers through song, music, poetry and drama. Both these productions had casts drawn from a number of drama clubs and performance groups reflecting Jim’s conviction that there is much to be gained from artistic collaboration and complementarity between different groups and disciplines.
Following qualification as a G.O.D.A. adjudicator Jim was invited to serve an appropriate time on the G.O.D.A. Council which is responsible for maintaining the highest standards of adjudication throughout the U.K. In this role Jim found that his active involvement in the administration of amateur a drama groups – an often undervalued priority in the amateur movement – was of considerable benefit. For a number of years Jim has been adjudicating widely in the U.K. and Ireland on both the A.D.C.I. and A.U.D.F. circuits, covering both Full Length and One Act, including festivals such as Scarrif, Rossmore, Glenamaddy, Ballyduff, Ballyshannon, Claregalway, Cavan, Strabane, Newtownstewart, Newtownabbey, Ballymoney and Bangor, and always finds the experience invigorating. In particular he enjoys the continuing theatrical education which comes from contact with many immensely talented groups, well informed and knowledgeable audiences, and extremely hard working and dedicated committees. lt is often forgotten that an adjudicator has to address, simultaneously, a number of distinct client interests – none of them homogeneous in their dramatic preferences – including performers, audiences and festival committees, and it is this rewarding challenge which gives the work its excitement and fulfilment.
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