Lyric Theatre announces plans to celebrate 50 years on the banks of the Lagan

The milestone anniversary of the Belfast institution's enduring home will be marked with landmark productions, gala events and more

The Street (1977)

The Lyric Theatre has unveiled a huge year of celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of its opening on Ridgeway Street. Founded by Mary O’Malley, the Belfast theatre moved to its current location in 1968, provided a place to broaden horizons throughout the Troubles and has continued to empower, inspire, engage and challenge audiences into the new millennium.

Northern Ireland’s only full-time producing theatre, the Lyric underwent significant redevelopment in 2011, increasing it to almost three times the size. It remains the region's largest employer of actors and has attracted over half a million to its high quality programme of classical and contemporary drama, playing to a further 60,000 on tour.

As part of its plans around this year's milestone, the Lyric is asking audiences to share their memories of seeing shows in the theatre through the years. The recollections, photos or old programmes will form part of an ongoing archive and be exhibited later in the months ahead and on social media.

New landmark productions for both Belfast and international audiences will also take place, in addition to over 15 visiting shows per month. A series of ‘In Conversation With’ events in partnership with the BBC NI’s The Arts Show will profile key figures associated with the Lyric, while two celebratory galas are scheduled for May and October.

One highlight of the year to come is the newly announced production of Good Vibrations, which commemorates another cultural anniversary in 40 years since the birth of Belfast punk through legendary label and record shop owner Terri Hooley. The story will be adapted for the stage by same team who wrote the BAFTA-nominated biopic, Colin Carberry and Glenn Patterson, and directed by Des Kennedy. It comes to the Lyric from September 1-30.

Colin Carberry Jimmy Fay Terri Hooley Glenn Patterson

(L - R) Colin Carberry, Jimmy Fay, Terri Hooley and Glenn Patterson

'I feel even more so in 2018 than in 2013 that it’s a story of great relevance,' said Patterson. 'It is the story of Terri’s life, shop, label, but much more - it’s about a way of life. The time and climate are right to celebrate all the things for which Terri stood – they are all the qualities you want to embrace.'

Meanwhile from April 7-28 the Lyric teams with Bruiser Theatre Company, which turned 20 last year, for The Collenn Bawn. Based on an infamous true crime, Dion Boucicault’s exuberant tale of desire, duty and betrayal has been captivating audiences since 1860.

The following month Brian Friel's Lovers is presented in two parts – Winners and Losers - with director Emma Jordan at the reins from May 12 - June 10, and at Christmas the Lyric goes down the rabbit hole with composer Paul Boyd for a magical musical version of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (November 29 - January 5).

Executive Producer of the Lyric, Jimmy Fay, said: '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.'

Over the years 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.

1977 The Rise and Fall of Barney Kerrigan (Liam Neeson)

Liam Neeson in The Rise and Fall of Barney Kerrigan (1977)

More recently 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).

To this day it nurtures and supports writers, performers, directors and designers, playing a part in the wider development of NI as a centre of excellence for film and TV drama production. The Lyric's New Playwrights development programme profiles the most exciting new voices in Irish theatre, while in 2017 its 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.

This year young actor Anthony Boyle, who can currently be seen in Derry Girls and is set to reprise his role as Scorpius Malfoy in the Broadway premiere of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, credited the Lyric with helping to prepare him for the future through its Creative Learning Department.

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.'

For details of upcoming events, ticket booking and more visit www.lyrictheatre.co.uk.