Made in China by the Corps Ensemble tours to the Civic Theatre next week and we took some time out to chat with the actors in advance of the show. The show was written by local playwright Mark O Rowe and has been described as ‘Wildly, outrageously, sickeningly funny.’ IRISH EXAMINER
Playing the part of Kilby in the upcoming production of Made in China, Neill Fleming has been acting his entire life. Thankfully, someone suggested using an actual stage early on. He spent much of his younger life crossing the Atlantic repeatedly, between Dublin, Maine, Massachusetts, Donegal and New York City. This has given him a very keen ear for accents and a chameleon-like ability for character acting. He has trained extensively in voice and his first love, Shakespeare. He has also done musical theatre, worked on a rake of films and has a very strong flair for comedy. We spoke with Neil to find out a little bit more about his acting life….
Could you tell us a little about your journey into acting, and how it all happened for you?
I’m not sure when or how it all started or any particular moment. I’d say my first few times on stage were singing in school shows, The ‘Littlest Christmas Tree’ and ‘Hound dog’ by Elvis Presley being two which stand out in memory. I remember discovering that I had two, very different, voices when it came time to sing Hound Dog. One that I thought sounded good but no one could hear, and another one that I was slightly afraid to use, but my Mam assured me, this was the one. Not sure I can remember the other voice now. From then on I was fairly hooked. I competed in Scór in primary school and we got to the Ulster Semi Finals with a one act play called ‘The Boyfriend’ in which I played a gentleman caller who gets mistaken for the vet by the brother of my paramour. It climaxed with him trying to pull a cow (unseen) onto the stage with a rope whilst I was horrified at the thought of what his tethered sister must look like. I also joined a drama school and played Grandpa Joe in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I must have been 11 or 12 at the time! I remember being sick as a pig for the performances, high fever and bad tonsillitis but I still did the shows. Later, when living in Amherst M.A. I did various High School Musicals, most notably playing Nicely Nicely Johnson in Guys and Dolls, as well as various other drama club productions, student written plays etc. It’s just always been part of my life, and part of who I am.
If you hadn’t been in showbusiness, what would you have done?
I’ve done loads of other things; started off chefing, then studied Animation in Ballyfermot while still doing a bit of cooking. Worked in graphic arts for Vivendi Universal Games for 3 years, then moved to NYC and did more graphics as well as production management for a print company. I found offices to be stifling so after an inspiring cycle up a headland in Donegal, decided to be a bicycle courier and fit as much acting in as I could around that. That was 12 years ago. If I were to give up acting tomorrow, I don’t know what I’d do. Maybe be a dog walker. Or a gardener. Not an office job, either way.
Tell us how you came to be in the show?
Ed (Mullane) asked me to do a reading of it about four or five years ago. We were working on a fringe show, and he just really wanted to hear this read, and thought of myself for Kilby. For me it just flowed, felt perfectly natural and at home with the language and the banter. I also have a very dark sense of humour, so it was love at first sight.
What do you hope audiences will take away from watching the show?
A sense of wonder. Sore ribs from laughing. Thoughts.
What is next for you?
I’m getting ready to move house and my partner Grainne is close to finishing her degree so I’m going to need to be packing boxes, walking dogs, making dinners and managing logistics to a certain extent. I’m definitely hoping to be a part of the Corps Ensemble Fringe show, and will of course continue to audition for work, but right now finding a new place to live and then getting our lives into cardboard to transport will take up a good deal of time and energy.
And finally, what was the last TV show you binge-watched? How many episodes did you see in a sitting?
I think the last thing I binge watched was HarmonQuest. I watched the first 7 episodes in one evening.
MADE IN CHINA, Tuesday 14th – Saturday 18th March 8.15pm