Lyric Theatre, Belfast

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This is an image of the main entrance to the Lyric Theatre, Belfast

Coordinates: 54°34′44″N 5°56′02″W / 54.579°N 5.934°W / 54.579; -5.934 The Lyric Theatre, or simply The Lyric, is the principal, full-time producing theatre in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The theatre was first established as The Lyric Players in 1951 at the home of its founders Mary O'Malley and her husband Pearse in Derryvolgie Avenue, off the Malone Road, and moved to its new site on Ridgeway Street in 1968, between the Stranmillis Road and Stranmillis Embankment. Austin Clarke laid the foundation stone in 1965 a deliberate choice by O'Malley to build a link back to her artistic hero W. B. Yeats. [1]

The theatre's chief executive/artistic director is Jimmy Fay, one of the most highly regarded directors in Ireland. [2]

History[edit]

In 1974 the theatre staged Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar, leading to protests. In 1976 Liam Neeson appeared in Brian Friel's Philadelphia Here I Come!. Neeson's association with the Lyric has continued since, and he is currently the theatre's patron. Several of Friel's plays have been staged at the theatre, including Dancing at Lughnasa in 1996 and 2015.[3] A number of Marie Jones plays have been staged there including A Night in November. [4]

In 2004 the theatre announced a fundraising campaign to redevelop the theatre on its existing site. In June 2007 a £1m donation by Northern Irish businessman Dr Martin Naughton kickstarted the development. Naughton's donation was the largest in Northern Ireland arts history. He had previously made donations to Queen's University, where the Naughton Gallery is named in his honour.

New Lyric Theatre[edit]

The new theatre opened on 1 May 2011, with a Gala Performance of The Crucible. The new facility features a new main theatre with a seating capacity of almost 400 and a multi-function performance space 'The Naughton Studio' which can seat between 120 and 170.[5] This new theatre was an almost threefold increase in the size of the previous building and the theatre remains the largest employer of actors and other theatre professionals in the region. [6]

The Lyric's current Chair is Sir Bruce Robinson [7] who took over in January 2015 from BBC Northern Ireland journalist Mark Carruthers,[8] who received an OBE at Buckingham Palace on 25 March 2011, in recognition of his leadership of the theatre at a highly critical time in its development.

Since the theatre re-opened a permanent exhibition of the work of Belfast-born visual artist Colin Davidson (artist) has been on display at the theatre where he personally presented his work to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the President of Ireland during the Royal visit to Northern Ireland on 27 June 2012. This was the occasion, and the Lyric was the chosen site, for a public meeting between Queen Elizabeth II and Martin McGuinness, Deputy First Minister for the Northern Ireland Assembly and a former commander of the IRA. The event is viewed by many as a positive sign for the ongoing peace process in Northern Ireland.[9]

In October 2018, as part of the theatre's 50th anniversary on the Stranmillis site, that theme of being "a shared place, a crossroads between communities" was marked at a symposium and over a weekend of celebratory events with the Irish Times noting the Lyric was a cultural bridge in a divided city. [10]

References[edit]

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