Double bills of Friel and new comedy fill Spring season at the Lyric Theatre Belfast

Spring bursts into life at the Lyric Theatre with two plays by one of Ireland’s greatest playwrights, Brian Friel opening an exciting new year of drama at the Belfast theatre.

Friel’s most acclaimed play, Philadelphia, Here I Come! launched him on to the international stage in 1964 and deals with themes still relevant today as the economic climate forces a new wave of Irish emigration. Directed by Andrew Flynn this production comes as Brian Friel celebrates his 85th birthday in 2014.
“It is fitting on the 50th anniversary of this great play that it is being staged at the Lyric,” said Andrew. “It is always a pleasure to work for such a dynamic and supportive company, but to be directing such a brilliant play with that support is a dream come true.”

Set in the fictional town of Ballybeg (Baile Beag) in Co Donegal, it is a touching portrait of a young man Gar O’Donnell torn between his small-town home in Ireland and the bright lights of America. Friel’s big trick is to show the two sides of the 25-year-old – public Gar and private Gar – as he faces his dilemma.

Dublin actor Peter Coonan best known for his role as Fran in RTÉ series Love/Hate, plays Gar Public opposite Gavin Drea as Gar Private, who also starred in Love/Hate. They head up a 12-strong cast on the Danske Bank Stage which includes local acting heavyweights, Niall Cusack (Macbeth), Stella McCusker (Uncle Vanya), Des McAleer (Hunger) and Marty Maguire (Mixed Marriage).

The rest of the cast are Susan Davey, Dermott Hickson, James McCullagh-Murphy, Terence Keeley, Enda Oates and Marion O’Dwyer.

Philadelphia, Here I Come! runs on the Danske Bank Stage from Thurs 6 February to Sat 8 March 2014, Tues to Sat 7.45pm, Thurs 1.30pm and weekend matinees at 2.30pm (Previews Sun 2 Feb 2.30pm, Tues 4 and Wed 5 Feb 7.45pm). Tickets from £10 to £24.50.

Friel Season Discount
Running simultaneously in the Naughton Studio is Friel’s rarely performed play Molly Sweeney which is a co-production with The Print Room, in London.

Blind since infancy, this poetic tale revolves around a woman who is persuaded to have an operation to restore her sight. Her husband Frank is convinced she has nothing to lose; her ophthalmologist Mr Rice is not so sure. Through a journey of memory, hope and despair, the play begs us to not only see, but also understand other people’s points of view.

Molly Sweeney is played by Donegal-born Dorothy Duffy, best known for her role in heart-wrenching film The Magdalene Sisters and Ruairi Conaghan (The Crucible) who is originally from Co Derry. The play is directed by Abigail Graham.

Molly Sweeney runs in the Naughton Studio from Wed 12 February to 8 March 2014; Tue to Sat 8pm; weekend matinees at 3pm (Previews Sat 8, Sun 9, Tues 11). Tickets from £10 to £16. The play then goes on tour to venues across Northern Ireland until the end of March.

Brian Friel fans can avail of a 20% discount off tickets if booking both Philadephia Here I Come! and Molly Sweeney at the Lyric Theatre.

First World War Anniversary
Marking the 100-year anniversary of the start of the First World War, the Lyric is staging a production of celebrated novel How Many Miles to Babylon by Jennifer Johnston. It tells the moving story of two young men, Alec and Jerry who come from very different backgrounds but find themselves on the fields of Flanders – one an officer, the other an enlisted soldier.

It is there, surrounded by mud and chaos and death, that one of them makes a fateful decision whose consequences will test their friendship and loyalty to breaking point.

Double Bill of Comedy
The Lyric lightens the mood considerably in late spring with a double bill of new comedy from two of Northern Ireland’s hottest playwrights.
In May the Lyric is delighted to stage a brand new comedy by award-winning playwright Gary Mitchell and directed by the Lyric’s former Artistic Director, Richard Croxford. Demented tells the hilarious story of a bank heist involving a wheelchair-bound man and his best friend’s father who has dementia.

Keith is in a wheelchair after a road accident which wasn’t his fault. His girlfriend Felicity is listed as his care person but is more likely to borrow his car, money and anything else she wants. Felicity works at the bank, where the manager is the driver who put Keith in a wheelchair.

Together with Keith’s best friend Andrew and Andrew’s father, who has dementia, they devise a plan to get rich quick. What could possibly go wrong?

Demented runs in the Naughton Studio from Wednesday 7 to Saturday 24 May (Previews Sun 4 and Tues 6 May). Tickets from £10 to £16.

After its sell-out run when it premiered last year at the Lyric, David Ireland’s romantic comedy Can’t Forget About You is doing a four-week run on the larger Danske Bank Stage this June.
Star of stage and screen, Conleth Hill (Game of Thrones) returns to direct the same cast led by Declan Rodgers who had audiences rolling with laughter at the antics of Belfast man, Stevie who meets and falls in love with a woman twice his age.

Their fledgling relationship is challenged by the expectations of Stevie’s conservative Christian mother and his ultra-unionist, Ulster-Scots-speaking sister who work hard to break the pair up.

Can’t Forget About You runs on the Danske Bank Stage from Thursday 12 June to Saturday 5 July (Previews Sun 8, Tues 10 & Wed 11 June). Tickets from £10 to £22.50.
Creative Learning

There are plenty of opportunities for young and not-so-young to get involved with the Lyric. From voice coaching and stage combat, to sound design and stage management, school-children as well as professional actors can benefit from a range of skills training.

From 3 to 5 April, the Lyric Drama Studio’s end-of-course production will be the Irish premiere of Howard Brenton’s drama, 55 Days about the English Civil War, directed by Lyric Creative Learning Co-ordinator, Philip Crawford.

“55 Days is an exciting and challenging choice for our student actors to work on,” said Philip. “The quality of the writing is superb – as you might expect from Howard Brenton and the subject matter surprisingly relevant to the political upheavals across the world in the 21st century.”

Roisín McDonough, Arts Council of Northern Ireland Chief Executive, said: “As principal funder of the Lyric Theatre, we are delighted that Northern Ireland’s only full time producing theatre is continuing its pursuit of excellence by offering a veritable feast of drama in 2014. A selection of favourites to mark both Friel’s 85th birthday year and the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, coupled with a comedy double from local playwrights, will make for a varied start to the year. The Lyric is primed to build on its success in 2014 with the £1million invested by the Arts Council continuing to protect, strengthen and develop the arts infrastructure here while stimulating the economy through cultural tourism.”

Head of Danske Bank UK and Ireland Gerry Mallon welcomed the new season: “It’s always exciting when a new Lyric programme is announced and this season doesn’t disappoint. As a local bank we are keen to support local talent. There is much to look forward to on the Danske Bank Stage this Spring, with comedy, romance and drama. We look forward to another fantastic season ahead.”

For more information on the Lyric’s season or to book, go to or contact the Box Office on (028) 9038 1081.


Post Author: Belfast Times

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