Lyric Announces Year of Celebrations to Mark 50 Years on Ridgeway Street
The Lyric Theatre is delighted to announce a programme celebrating its 50 year role at the heart of the history, heritage and contemporary culture of theatre in Northern Ireland. Opening for business on the banks of the Lagan in 1968, its visionary founders were motivated by the fundamental belief that society needs accessible spaces in which artists can have the courage of their convictions and be allowed to soar. That small theatre, founded by Mary O’Malley, became a haven during the turbulent time of the Troubles, providing a space for reflection and a place to broaden horizons by looking outwards.
The Lyric engages audiences at home and abroad by producing a stimulating, high quality programme of classical and contemporary drama, using the very best of Irish theatre professionals. Since 1968, the Lyric has utilised the power of live theatre to empower, inspire, engage and challenge audiences. The theatre never closed during the Troubles and rebuilt for a new era when peace came. The life of the Lyric matches the wider life of Northern Ireland over the past 50 years - an open, welcoming space at the heart of the arts; a place of dialogue, drama and encounter.
Audiences have grown, turnover has increased and brought more theatre to more people with touring work than at any time in the history of the theatre. As Northern Ireland’s only full-time producing theatre, it is the largest employer of actors in the region and represents a cornerstone for the industry. Following extensive capital development in 2011 on its existing site on the banks of the River Lagan, the new Lyric is almost three times the size of its predecessor, and has attracted over ½ million audiences and played to a further 60,000 on tour. It has provided nearly 600 weeks of employment for actors, whilst contracts for freelance directors and designers ensures that the blossoming film and television industry continues to have the talent and expertise for it to grow.
The Lyric has premiered the works of playwrights such as Stewart Parker (Northern Star in 1982), Martin Lynch (Dockers in 1981), Christina Reid (Tea in a China Cup in 1983) and Marie Jones (Stones in his Pockets in 1997), and employed some of Northern Ireland’s finest actors, including Adrian Dunbar, Dan Gordon, Conleth Hill, Ciaran Hinds, Stella McCusker, Ian McIlhinney, Frances Tomelty and the Theatre’s patron, Liam Neeson. It continues to nurture and support writers, performers, directors and designers, playing a part in the wider development of NI as a centre of excellence for film & TV drama production.
In recent years the Lyric has produced phenomenal productions by maturing directors, such as Emma Jordan (Educating Rita and Red), Selina Cartmell (Punk Rock), Walter Sutcliffe (The Threepenny Opera), and Paul Boyd (Little Red Riding Hood). It profiles the most exciting new voices in Irish Theatre through its New Playwrights development programme, showcasing and its support for Artist in Residencies. Most recently, in 2017 the Lyric’s first writer-in-residence David Ireland won the James Tait Black Award for his play Cyprus Avenue produced by the Abbey Theatre and the Royal Court in London.
The Lyric is Northern Ireland’s most important resource for the professional development of young and aspiring artists. Since the new building opened in 2011, there is an enviable track record in encouraging young people to fulfil their creative potential. The Creative Learning Department has seen a staggering 33 young people gain places at Drama Schools, taking to the stage on both Broadway and the West End. For example, in 2018 one of its ‘alumni’ who credits the Lyric with preparing him for the future, Anthony Boyle will be on the Broadway stage as Scorpius Malfoy in the long awaited New York premiere of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
Executive Producer of the Lyric, Jimmy Fay, has attracted local and international critical acclaim and toured successfully to New York, Dublin, London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Letterkenny, Cork, Perth and Wales. Productions have included actors such as Sir Kenneth Branagh, Simon Callow, Rob Brydon, Adrian Dunbar and Conleth Hill, and new co-productions with the Young Vic, the Dublin Theatre Festival, and the Abbey and Soho Theatre. This year alone, the Lyric has received seven nominations for RED, co-production with Prime Cut.
Jimmy Fay commented,
“In 2018 the Lyric celebrates its 50th anniversary on Ridgeway Street. This is a remarkable achievement for a theatre of this size. It is a testament to the wonderful loyalty, interest and affection that this theatre is held in by its audience. And to the great vibrancy, talent and skill of the many great artists (poets, writers, actors, musicians, directors, designers, backstage and administrative staff) that have worked in the Lyric over its many years. This year we plan to celebrate the past and look to the future by offering a programme of work that puts the community at its heart, that celebrates the transformative power of people power and the exuberant joy and intensity of creating Art. The Lyric belongs to its audience and its artists. We look forward to continuing our dialogue, our performances and our adventures together for many years to come.”
As part of the 50th celebrations, the Lyric is looking for your memories, anything that audiences can recall of seeing shows in the theatre (old and new) over the years – be it a memory, old programmes, or photos. The memories will be added to an ongoing archive and exhibited later in the year and on social media.
Further 50th celebration announcements in the Spring will include:
- In addition to over 15 visiting shows per month, new landmark productions for both Belfast and international audiences
- A series of ‘In Conversation With’ events in partnership with the BBC Arts Show, profiling key figures associated with the Lyric
- Two celebratory gala events which will be held in May and October.
Lorraine McDowell, Director of Operations, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said,
“Congratulations to the Lyric Theatre on achieving their 50th anniversary. The Arts Council is immensely proud to the Principal Funder of the Lyric Theatre. The Lyric Theatre is Northern Ireland’s only full-time producing theatre, is the largest employer of actors in the region and represents the cornerstone of producing theatre in Northern Ireland. The Lyric Theatre is fundamental to the drama sector in Northern Ireland and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland look forward with excitement to the 50th anniversary programme of celebration taking place throughout 2018.”
The Lyric’s 50th Season Programme can be found at lyrictheatre.co.uk