Lyric Launches its Spring Season
The Lyric Theatre announced its new Spring Season programme and 2017 Writer-In-Residence last night at an event which involved new music from Duke Special, Ursula Burns, Kyron Burke, and a performance from Conor Mitchell and Abigail McGibbon.
Since its extensive capital development in 2011, 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. As Northern Ireland’s only full-time producing theatre, it continues to be the largest employer of local theatre practitioners, providing over 500 weeks of employment for actors as well as contracts for freelance directions and designers.
Executive Producer Jimmy Fay has attracted 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.
The theme for 2016 was called Vivid Faces where the Lyric examined how events of a hundred years ago shaped Ireland, both North and South with presentations such as Rosemary Jenkinson’s playful Here Comes The Night and the Abbey’s vivid production of Observe the Sons of Ulster which the Lyric presented in an Ulster-wide tour. This year the aim is to continue to be more outward especially in tours across the whole island of the highly acclaimed production of Educating Rita and to Broadway with Cahoots on their production of Nivelli’s War, and to foster the best of new writing on the main stages with Marie Jones’ sparkling new comedy drama Sinners.
Nivelli’s War will bring the European post-war refugee experience to both Belfast and Broadway, the international acclaimed and Tony award winning Red on the American painter of Russian-Jewish descent Mark Rothko will be a chance for Belfast audiences to experience the very best new writing in modern drama, Sinners presents a searing satire on narcissism and fundamentalist religion, The Heresy of Love looks at feminism and speaking truth to power in Latin America, whilst the new Writer-In-Residence shows the Lyric’s commitment, along with that of their sponsor, towards putting the theatre artist at the very centre of everything they do at the Lyric.
In this, so called, post-truth democracy and in a climate of increasingly polarised political and religious beliefs, the Lyric season will look at Belfast in a European and global context – including the importance of remembering shared underlying facts, humanity during war, and how the arts and the artist contributes greatly to the way we understand and live in this world. The programme will explore, provoke and inspire new connections and question our own responsibilities.
With casts and crews from their forthcoming season in attendance, Executive Producer Jimmy Fay commented,
“The Lyric is extremely proud to be able to draw on the unusually rich quality of our artists and I am proud to say that the Lyric is a home to some of our finest practitioners in playwriting, directing, design and acting. Our programme of work is distinctive, it resonates and engages with Belfast’s people, but we also showcase our artistic excellence nationally and internationally. The Lyric and her artists, offer a fresh, positive and energising narrative.”
Alongside its new productions, the Lyric launched its commitment to bring exciting new work to the stage. Its 2017 Writer-In-Residence will be Belfast’s Rosemary Jenkinson, who is among the shining stars of modern playwrights in Ireland. Her ability to combine harsh reality and humour to produce memorable theatre is exceptional and it is no accident that her work has been performed in London, Dublin, Edinburgh, New York and Washington D.C. A new six month Playwrights Programme of development support has also been established to encourage and inspire playwrights – be they established, emerging, or entirely new to the theatre. This will culminate in showcase performances in the Naughton Studio in October 2017.
The Lyric’s Principal Funder is the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, and their Director of Arts Development, Noirin McKinney, commented at the launch,
“The Arts Council congratulates the Lyric on another terrific new season. We are particularly delighted to support the New Playwrights Programme through the Sustainability Award. This important initiative will significantly increase the opportunities available for emerging playwrights to develop their skills and talent, producing work that otherwise wouldn’t exist. There are few experiences that come close to live theatre and that experience starts with good writing. The New Playwrights Programme is a vital step forward in the development of new writers and new writing for the stage, from Northern Ireland.”
The full Spring Season includes 27 productions and full details can be found at www.lyricbelfast.co.uk. Box Office 028 9038 1081.
SPRING SEASON HIGHLIGHTS
RED by John Logan, starring Patrick O’Kane – co-production with Prime Cut
Set in the 1950s and based on a series of real events, John Logan’s taut, visceral two-hander focuses in on artist Mark Rothko at the height of his career. Viewed through the lens of his youthful new assistant, Ken, we witness Rothko at the pinnacle of his creativity, but struggling through the creation of a large-scale commission intended for New York’s brand-new Four Seasons Restaurant. As Ken and Rothko paint, they challenge each other to ask big questions about art: what it takes to create it and what its role should be in the world.
SINNERS by Marie Jones, starring Alan McKee and Christina Nelson
A farming community becomes embroiled in the tangled disputes of local politics, organised religion and personal relationships. They are suddenly offered redemption from a charismatic yet unorthodox preacher. But are they willing to pay the price? A sharp satire on fundamentalist religion and the gullible from the wicked pen of Marie Jones, loosely based on Moliere’s Tartuffe.
NIVELLI’S WAR by Charles Way, starring Dan Gordon – co-production with Cahoots NI
Based on the moving true story of a Holocaust survivor, this is a vivid and moving theatrical account told through magic, illusion and original music. Ernst, a young evacuee from Frankfurt, is all alone and far away from home when he meets and befriends the mysterious Mr. H, a stranger with a trick or two up his sleeve. Together, they set off down a road fraught with danger, hunger and uncertainty to find Ernst’s family in this dramatic story of an incredible journey and an unlikely friendship.
Nivelli’s War will transfer from the Lyric to a two week run on Broadway, on 42nd Street in the iconic Times Square.
THE HERESY OF LOVE, presented by the Lyric Drama Studio – new talent development
The story of Latin America’s great feminist poet. In a convent in 17th century Mexico, Sister Juana strives to reconcile her love for God with her desire for a life of the mind. Her gift for writing plays and poems is celebrated by the Court, but her success creates alarm within the Church. Persecuted by a zealous archbishop, Juana’s world threatens to crumble around her as everything she holds dear is jeopardised by dangerous ambitions and illicit desires.
EDUCATING RITA, by Willy Russell, starring Michael James Ford and Kerri Quinn
Following its record-breaking run in 2016, this reimagined production of Willy Russell’s award-winning comedy returns to the Lyric with its original cast, before embarking on a tour across Ireland, including Dublin’s Gaiety.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST – Christmas 2017
A fresh and unique new musical version of the classic fairytale aimed at both the young and the young-at-heart. The plucky heroine, Beauty, confronts her would be captor, the Beast, and through street smarts, humour and plain old gumption shows a way forward out of dark enchantment and towards a new dawn. Ursula Burns brings her unique and superb lyrical gifts to the score.