The Clarence Players – memories of Stephen Connolly
Stephen made a grand entrance to The Clarence Players in 2014. He took on the role of Gerry Dunbar, the director of a play within a play, shouting from the back of the theatre and bounding onto the stage to remonstrate with his “woeful cast,” in the production, Play On, by Rick Abbot.
We were delighted to welcome him back in many subsequent productions, for example, in Hedda Gabler, by Henrik Ibsen, as a sinister Judge Brack. In another of Ibsen’s plays, Stephen performed the title role in John Gabriel Borkman where he picked up a Best Actor award in Newry Festival. He went on to pick up many more awards and nominations in future festivals, including the AUDF (Northern Ireland) finals in the play, Give me your Answer, do, by Brian Friel, in 2019, where he won the Best Supporting Actor award.
When The Clarence Players was commissioned to take part in Belfast’s 3rd C.S Lewis festival to perform Roger Courtney’s The Inklings, Stephen took on the role of C.S Lewis. He wanted to do justice to Lewis’ words and truly brought them to life on stage.
He also proved his versatility as an actor in comic roles in our summer productions. Who can forget his performance in, Kindly Keep it Covered, by Dave Freeman as the reluctant dieter, Hooper. Dressed throughout in a fat suit, he managed to pull off some astounding physical moves and brought the house down in a scene where he finally found some food! Each night, the cast watched this particular scene from backstage as we enjoyed it so much. Other summer plays included, Beside the Seaside, by Leslie Sands and Boeing-Boeing, by Marc Camoletti.
Just prior to the pandemic, Stephen took on the role of Gardner Church in Tina Howe’s play, Painting Churches. He played the role of a poet who was losing his memory with great sensitivity and his renditions of some well known poetry touched festival audiences. He also won Best Actor Awards in both Ballymoney and Larne and likely would have gone on to further success had Covid not prevented the run continuing.
Stephen will be remembered with much affection by The Clarence Players for his enormous talent, but even more for his kindness, generosity, sense of fun and friendship. The thoughts of our members are with his wife, Jane and his son, Edward.
Many thanks to Lorraine, Jackie and David for all their work in putting this together.