SynopsisPrologue: A young man attends the funeral of actor Jim Brevin. Many are startled by the young man’s resemblance to the deceased – as far as everyone knows, Jim never had a son.
Part 1: Jim Brevin is born in 1898 to a middle-class Dublin family. He is a headstrong, independent child who has a poor relationship with his father. At Christmas, Jim and his family attend a pantomime and Jim is captivated by the magic of theatre. Buy Book Here
Part 2: Frustrated by school, Jim runs away and joins a fit-up company that tours Cork and Kerry. He befriends fellow actor Shamus McCarty, who becomes his mentor. While touring, Jim experiences the widespread poverty in the country. Fit-up audiences are rowdy, Shamus attacks an audience member and the company is forced out of town. Shamus is dismissed, Jim takes over his parts, but business is bad and Jim is let go.
Part 3: Jim returns to Dublin and for two years cannot get work in theatre. He meets Shamus who brings him to an audition with Ira Allen. Jim is cast in a small part and, while celebrating in the Portabella Pub, Jim and Shamus get caught up in the 1916 rising. In Stephen’s Green, Jim is wounded but takes two injured rebels to a doctor in County Wicklow. On his way home, Jim witnesses the destruction of Dublin city centre.
Part 4: Ira Allen’s play opens and is a huge success. Jim becomes infatuated with an actress in the company but she does not share his feelings and instead she and Shamus become lovers. When the actress tells Shamus she is pregnant, he rejects her and flees to London. Jim takes over Shamus’s role, his performance is praised and he becomes a regular member of the company. A year later, on his way home from the theatre, Jim is stopped by rebels who mistake him for a British agent. Minutes before he is to be executed, one of the rebels recognises him and he is released. Jim meets and falls in love with Maebh Mullin. However, because Maebh is working class, Jim’s brother Michael does not accept her. Jim and Maebh marry and when they learn that she is pregnant they are overjoyed. But their joy is short lived – during the birth of their child, Maebh and her son die.
Part 5: Jim is approached by Ira Allen to resume his work in theatre, and after much persuasion he returns to the stage. For five years, Jim plays leading roles but Ira Allen’s early death causes the collapse of the company. Jim and fellow actor Leslie Lawrence create a new company and embrace the new, more realistic style of theatre. Jim meets Andrea Newman who pursues him. They become intimate, then Andrea abruptly disappears from Jim’s life. Nine years later, she returns to tell Jim that he has a son, James. She wants Jim to become the boy’s legal guardian, but not his acknowledged father. Jim agrees. Soon afterwards, he gets a part in a major motion picture, is heralded as a future screen actor and is offered a choice of roles in America. But Andrea has died and James has become critically ill, so Jim turns down a career in Hollywood to stay and care for his son. Eight years later, when James has gone to university in Cambridge, Jim resumes his stage career. He suffers a series of heart attacks and finally dies, as he has lived, on the Dublin stage.
Epilogue: The young man sits in a pew at the front of the church and when a woman asks him who he is, he tells her that his name is James and that he, like his father, is an actor.
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Bio Cecil Allen
Born in Dublin, the award winning writer Cecil Allen is the grandson of the famous actor and writer Ira Allen. Cecil is a retired college lecturer from the Dublin Institute of Technology who holds a BA in Radio and TV communications from Indiana University and an MFA in Theatre Arts from the University of Minnesota. He is a former professional actor who performed in many Dublin theatres including the Gate Theatre and the Olympia Theatres. He was a broadcaster with RTE for over twenty years and represented Ireland twice at International Toastmasters Competitions.
Cecil was the ghost writer of the hugely popular ‘Simply Painting’ book for Oisin Arts. He wrote the eight part TV documentary series Missions in Crisis for RTE. In addition he has written and directed over two hundred video productions for Kairos Communications and James Dillon Productions which have won many national and international awards.
He is the father of two sons and lives in Malahide with his wife Julie.
A totally absorbing novel. Never predictable. Didn't want it to end A definite must read!! What an intriguing and unusual storyline.
Lesley Bailey, UK
An excellent read, vivid and entertaining
An excellent read, vivid and entertaining. Mr. Allen has a way with words which is both accessible and engaging.
By John J
Enjoyed the book very much. A very enjoyable read.
Maureen Mosson, UK
A terrific read!
A terrific read, a real page turner. I always know when I put a book down--but really want to go on reading it, that I like it! It's a novel about people, family, friendship, love, war and theatre. The story is told against the backdrop of the emergence of the new Irish State and the end of the political melodrama. It's an interesting and well researched portrayal of the emerging society. But it's not all serious, the author shifts the tone from solemn to comic to threatening--as the situation demands. Essentially the book tells the story of a young man who wants to become an actor in Ireland in the 1900's. It follows his life as an apprentice actor with a travelling fit-up theatre in Cork to his involvement with the IRA. It tells of his romance with a rebel's sister and his work in political melodramas in the Queen's Theatre. The plot is absorbing and the characters are vividly portrayed. The descriptions of the time are interesting and the story has plenty of twists along the way. It is compelling and sometimes a little shocking. I engaged with the characters and came to understand their life, troubles and their passions. A really great read.
By Julie A. Ireland
Cecil Allen is a reader's writer.
A powerful, touching thoroughly absorbing novel with many happy and sometime sad twists and turns. I loved it. Mark Dillon, Dublin Ireland
A thoroughly enjoyable read.
The Actor is not a book I would have picked out for myself. However I thoroughly enjoyed it, finding it a really interesting story and insight into both the 1916 rising, the civil war, the birth of The Free State and the lives of ordinary people. I really enjoyed learning about theatrical life in Ireland during the first half of the 20th century, something about which I would have known absolutely nothing previously. The characters were an interesting bunch and well developed over the course of the novel. Their lives kept me interested all the way through.
Deirdre Sheehan, Australia
Loved the Actor.
I was brought to tears many times and I found the breadth of the historical setting of the story to be fascinating. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I am a working actor and I found the advice on acting to be so pertinent to our production of Tony Kushner's adaptation of The Illusion that I shared several paragraphs from the book with our director.
John Olive, Athens, Ga. USA
An entertaining and enjoyable read.
A powerful, touching thoroughly absorbing novel with many happy and sometime sad twists and turns. I loved it. The war scenes were traumatic and exciting.
Excellent, surprising and wonderfully rich. A thoroughly absorbing and moving novel and it is a testament to the author's adaptability and energy that he is equally at home writing about war, theatre, friendship, love and passion.
I don't intend giving any of the plot away except the say the war scenes were traumatic to say the least. After finishing this book I was in a daze. What lights up ‘The Actor’ is the way Allen paints theatre life in all its glory and lunacy, So often, historical fiction relies on research for its colour and depth of interest, but Allen’s impeccable eye for detail, perfect pitch for the nuances of dialogue, and the quiet, understated passion that enlivens his writing combine here to make his considerable achievement seem effortless.
Do yourself a favour and read ‘The Actor.’ I guarantee you'll love it.
Maebh D. Co Clare.
A marvellous book I have just finished reading this marvellous book. I really was unable to put it down.
Clive Thomas, Co Carlow
Q. What genre or category would describe your novel?’
A. I suppose its historical fiction. But for me I just wanted to write a book that people would like to read, a book that would make people smile, laugh and every now and then shed a tear.
Q. One of the main characters in the book is Ira Allen, was he a real person?
A. Yes, he was my grandfather and all the plays attributed to him in the novel are correct.
Q. Is the book historically accurate?
A. Yes and no. I have tried to be as historically accurate as possible but as this is a novel I have taken some liberties with events and people.
Q. Was there a Queen’s Theatre?
A. Yes. The Queen’s Theatre was located in Great Brunswick Street (now called Pearse Street) roughly opposite the Tara Street fire station.
Q. Why did you write The Actor?
A. I wanted to tell a great story and to celebrate the work of artists and actors in a positive and joyful way. I also wanted to explore why artists and actors continued to work their craft even in the most difficult of circumstances.
Q. What is unique about The Actor?
A. It explores two aspects of Irish Theatre history that been much neglected; travelling fit-up companies and Irish Political Melodramas.
Q. Did you enjoy writing the book?
A. Yes, it was a labour of love. Many of the things my grandfather says in the novel are his own words so I had the great pleasure of playing with his words. I also got to imagine and convey to readers what productions of were like as an experience and I had fun doing so. Another thing I enjoyed and hadn’t written before were action sequences, they were a fun to write.
Q What story does the book tell?
In 1914 a young Brevin runs away from his comfortable, middle-class Dublin home and joins a theatrical fit-up company travelling around Cork and Kerry. Two years later on the day he becomes an apprentice with the famous Ira Allen’s Company of Irish Players he reluctantly gets involved in The Rising.
Jim is mistaken for a spy, marries a rebel’s sister, discovers fraud and theft in the family business and suffers a horrendous personal tragedy. In time he becomes a celebrated actor and at the moment of his greatest theatrical success he is faced with a stark choice.
Q. How are the troubles reflected in your book?
A. When I was preparing to write the book I realised that Ira Allen was performing his melodramas at the time of the Rising and all during Ireland struggle for Independence and the Civil War. I also realised that if I was to give an accurate picture of the times the troubles had to be a major part of the story. To that end I created character called Red Mullin. Red is the same age as Jim and is an active member of the Irish Citizen’s Army. Because of his friendship with Red Jim finds himself in Stephen’s Green on Easter Monday 1916 where he witnesses the killing of his best friend. Later in the book Jim taken to be a British spy, at another time he is questioned by the British authorities and he has a skirmish with some Black and Tan soldier. The leaders of the Rising nor the political leaders of the time don’t feature in my book, this is not there story. What features in the book is the effect the decisions taken by these people have on ordinary people and their lives.
Example; Jim is stopped and accused of being a G-man.
Q. Who would be interested in your book?
A. The book will be of interest to anyone who likes a good read but particularly to people with an interest in theatre or Irish history. It would also be of interest to historians, professional and amateur actors, theatre students and anyone with an interest in in the Queen’s Theatre and the many descendants of Ira Allen.
Q. What is your next book about?
A. I’m still thinking about that.
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Cecil Allen web page can be found at www.cecilallen.com