Charles Macklin: the final curtain

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Saying farewell to a man who has been gone for 218 years may seem a tad late, but this swansong is just as much for the people and home place that remembered Charles Macklin for the last 25 years, as it is for the man himself.

Since 1990, the picturesque village of Culdaff in Donegal faithfully paid tribute to its most colourful son, the actor and playwright, Charles Macklin, in the form of the Charles Macklin Autumn school every October. In September 2015, the committee announced that the annual festival would be no more. By October, it had lost its loyal patron, Brian Friel. To simply see a festival honouring a giant of the West End disappear into the ether was never an option. What more fitting departure than to have the last word on the Macklin festival at the actor’s resting place in London’s famous Actors’ Church in Covent Garden?

At 7.30pm on Friday 20th November, the church will host an evening of music and words in honour of Macklin, culminating with the highly-regarded play, Macklin: Method and Madness. This comedy is a brilliant two hander written and performed by Gary Jermyn and Michael James Ford which tells us in a most colourful fashion of the life and fast times of Macklin himself, the first great West End ‘star’ whose stage name came from dropping the ‘glough’ in McLaughlin to the much simpler Macklin. Ingeniously funny, it never lets up until the end; a perfectly madcap salute to a local hero who had treaded the boards and run the gauntlet for well over a century.

Macklin’s long life bookended two pivotal points in Irish history. Born weeks after William of Orange’s 1690 triumph by the banks of the Boyne, he died the year before the 1798 Rebellion, just shy of 107. A giant of the London stage, his life had all the ingredients for a great play – lust, greed, murder, envy, ambition and talent. Not the sort of fellow you might think should be honoured hundreds of years later, but thankfully he is.

In the Actors’ Church of St. Paul’s in London’s Covent Garden, all of the good and the great actors have plaques on the walls in their memory. On the right hand side of the church is one of the more prominent memorials to the ‘father of the modern stage’ no less. In theatreland, Macklin has both a street and a hallowed plaque to remember him for all eternity. On the 20th of November, we’ll say a proper goodbye to the festival that saluted him for so many years. Gone, but not forgotten – a final thanks to Sean Beattie, the McGrorys and the hard-working committee and people of Culdaff for remembering a departed son.

Macklin: Method and Madness
By Gary Jermyn and Michael James Ford
Friday, 20th November 2015
Actors Church, Covent Garden
Doors open, 6.45pm; Performance, 7.30pm
Tickets: £15 from Eventbrite or email

Macklin plaque

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