Armagh actor stars in winning Olivier play

Story By: Ulster Gazette

AN Armagh actor is taking the London theatre scene by storm after a play he’s treading the boards in won an Olivier Award.

John Paul Connolly, who has been a professional actor for over 20 years, is appearing in ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’, a play which clinched the best revival award category.

The play, based on real-life story of 1920s singer Gertrude Rainey, whose talent saw her dubbed the ‘Mother of the Blues’, focuses on one day of her life as she makes a record. Its exploration of themes such as racial tension and life as experienced by African-Americans in Chicago, has resulted in huge critical acclaim with national critics giving it five-star reviews.

Staged at The National, John Paul, who stars as a corrupt Irish cop, said he was “absolutely thrilled” the play was recognised at the awards ceremony held on Sunday (April 3) evening.

“It’s so unexpected,” John Paul told the Gazette. “I’m absolutely thrilled. The Oliviers are the most esteemed awards.”

Now based in London, John Paul received news of the win while he was back home in Armagh on a break with his wife, Stephanie and two daughters, Caitlyn and Sinead.

“The director, Dominic sent out an email to everyone saying ‘congratulations’. It’s great news,” he explained.

John Paul, who belonged to the Armagh Theatre Group for many years before leaving home to take up a place at RADA, is to return to the stage to continue ‘Ma Rainey’s’ run.

“The arun continues from mid April to May, but after this it may be extended, or it may be transferred. Who knows,” he said.

“We were all thrilled even to have the nomination. The whole rehearsal and performance process has been a wonderful experience.

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