PRESS RELEASE: Traditional Irish Wake in Danger of Dying Out, Says Playwright James McAnespy

Traditional Irish Wake in Danger of Dying Out, Says Playwright James McAnespy

Omagh-born playwright James McAnespy says that the tradition of the Irish wake is in danger of dying out amidst the frenzy of modern life.

The writer, 28, has expressed concern that the increased pressures of modern lifestyles and increased youth emigration threatens the viability of the tradition of sitting up in vigil for the deceased in a wake house.

His comedy, Sitting Up for Michael, which makes it’s London premiere in the White Bear Theatre in Kennington in April, is set at a contemporary wake house in Clogher in county Tyrone on a wintery January night, and is a snapshot of the custom that’s still observed in rural areas. 

“Irish wakes are a very unique form of mourning,” McAnespy said. “If the person that died had a good long life, it allows the mourners to celebrate their life with fond and often funny memories, as well as providing a platform for people to offer their condolences.

“It is unfortunate that we are already seeing the tradition is being practised less and less in cities within Ireland, and it’s particularly difficult to get a wake organised outside of Ireland.”

James McAnespy as Rory in Sitting Up for Michael

The comedy, which McAnespy will also be acting in, is a bittersweet comedy about the tensions that arise when truths within families and communities come to the surface, especially when emotions are already high and liberated by drink. Through this prism, he explores themes of family, bereavement, youth unemployment, bullying and many other aspects of 21st century life in Ireland.

“Everyone has been to a wake,” McAnespy said, “and people will recognise the characters in the play that are in every small town in Ireland.”
The play is the second half of a comedy double bill that also includes his play, C.L.G., a rip-roaring two-man play about the acrimony that festers between GAA clubs if they are at close quarters.
“I just thought it would be funny to lock two rival GAA members in a changing room, and let them slug out the verbals,” he said. “They have to decide on a neutral venue for their first championship clash in 9 years, and as we all know, there’s nothing more unpalatable than giving up an inch to your nearest neighbour!” 
C.L.G./Sitting Up for Michael Double Bill is playing in the White Bear Theatre in Kennington from April 8-27.  Tickets are now on sale at and priced at £14/£10. No online booking fee applies.


Fundraising quizzes for C.L.G./Sitting Up for Michael: The Old Tiger's Head, Lee Green

As part of our fundraising for Sitting Up for Michael, we will be holding a series of quizzes in pubs across London in the run up to Saint Patrick's day.

The first that we have confirmed is taking place in the Old Tiger's Head in Lee Green on Monday 24th February. Come on down if you're in the surrounding areas like Hither Green, Lewisham, Blackheath, Greenwich or Charlton.

We all love a good quiz, especially James, who has set the fiendishly hard questions, like what is the capital of Ireland?

There'll be other tidbits of fun too, and of course, prizes to be won. 

As mentioned there'll be other quizzes dotted around London, which we'll be announcing in the coming days, so keep a look out for the one that's closest to you.

Sitting Up for Michael is playing in the White Bear Theatre from 8-27 April 2014. Tickets (£14/£10 -no booking fee) are on sale now.

C.L.G. & Sitting Up for Michael double bill to make London debut in The White Bear Theatre in April

King's Fool Productions is delighted to announce that the London debut of James McAnespy's Sitting Up for Michael will take place at the White Bear Theatre in Kennington in April 2014.

Along with a new short comedy, C.L.G. about the rivalries that exist between local GAA clubs, the double bill will run from April 8-27. 

It marks a return to the stage for ...Michael, after we put on a hugely successful tour of Northern Ireland in 2012, that had 500 people through the doors in five nights. Once again, we have secured the services of brilliant young director Helen Donnelly to direct.

Tickets are on sale now priced at £14/£10, with no online booking fee. Demand is expected to be high again, so book early to avoid disappointment.


Two members of rival GAA clubs have been locked in a room until they can decide on a neutral venue for their upcoming match. It'll be the first time the two teams will have met for nine years, and some old scores have been long to heal. 

Will the dastardly Sam trick his way to getting the venue he wants, or can the put-upon Lory hold fast? They'd need to hurry up though - Fair City will be on soon!

Sitting Up for Michael

Michael's Died. Who's going to do the readings? Will there be a lock-in at Packie's? Why did he only get twenty Mass Cards? It's a wil' handlin' altogether.

The family and friends of Michael Montague gather for the sit up on the eve of his funeral. Set in contemporary county Tyrone, James McAnespy’s comedy explores themes of family, separation and hidden pasts. So don't open the brandy until tomorrow.

Brian, Michael's stubborn son, bickers relentlessly with his sister Frieda who has just come down from Belfast and starts ruling the roost as usual. Their neighbour Doris offers her support and a hot pot of tea. Young Rory, who reaches for a drink a little too readily is there to see Joe, whose coming down on the University bus, with a girl he just met - but she's got more to hide than she's letting on.

White Bear Theatre

The White Bear Theatre 138 Kennington Park Road London SE11 4DJ
Tube: Kennington (Northern Line). Turn left out of the station along the main road and the White Bear is on the right hand side.

Bus: 3, 59, 133, 155, 159, 414

Tickets: £14/£10 concession (no booking fee) available from or on door (subject to availability)

Sitting Up for Michael a Runaway Success (archive post)

This is a portion of a post that first appeared on James' personal blog in 2012.

The run of Sitting Up for Michael ended with aplomb in The Alley Arts Centre, Strabane, with over 130 people coming down to see us. It was another fantastic turnout and the tour ended with over 500 people attended five performances!

I'm taking some time to regroup now, and see where I'll take King's Fool Productions next - there are a few avenues open at the minute, so it's just time to take stock of the options open to me.

Sitting Up for Michael at the Audition Stage (archive post)

This post first appeared on James' personal blog in 2012.

Over the last while I have been preparing King's Fool Productions for our first major production, my play Sitting Up for Michael. We will be holding auditions on Sunday having received over 400 applicants from all over the UK and Ireland.

The standard was so high, it was excrutiatingly difficult to have to choose who to invite.
I'll be sitting alongside the director Helen Donnelly, who directed the rehearsed reading in November, but my role will mostly be to read in.

We are still sorting out then locations of the tour, but we'll be touring across the province in May and June, and I'm really looking forward to it.