It's Lughnasa for Lyric not to cast one local actor in new production, says Game Of Thrones star Ian Beattie
Belfast-born Game Of Thrones star Ian Beattie has expressed his shock that a new play at the Lyric Theatre has no local actors.
The cast of Brian Friel's Dancing At Lughnasa, which opens next month, includes five actors from the Republic, two from England and one from Scotland.
"I find it hard to believe they couldn't find one local actor to fill any of the eight roles," said Ian, who also stars in the BBC Northern Ireland comedy Number 2s.
"The remit of the Lyric is to showcase local talent, yet they seem to think there isn't an actor from Northern Ireland who is good enough to be in this play."
It is understood that one Belfast-born actor was offered a part, but it was later withdrawn.
Ian said it was ironic that the original production of Lughnasa - at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 1990 - included a number of northern actors including Frances Tomelty, Brid Brennan and Gerard McSorley.
The production later went to the West End and to Broadway, where it won a number of awards, including a Tony.
It is understood the Lyric will have to pay upwards of £1,000 a week in subsistence fees to the cast, but Ian, who played Ser Meryn Trant in Game Of Thrones, said: "I find it puzzling that they would put such a heavy expense on themselves before even one ticket is sold."
He also pointed out that he was not criticising the actors who had been cast.
"As an actor myself, I know we go where the work is, but I think it's sad the Lyric haven't found any homegrown talent," Ian added.
"On this way of going, Liam Neeson, who is the Lyric's patron and our most successful actor, might find it difficult to get a job there, even though he started his professional career in the theatre.
"I am convinced that we have the most incredible acting talent here, both male and female. Some of them take my breath away and a number of them are the best I have ever seen anywhere in the world.
"Yet this casting by the Lyric, who quite properly receive public subsidies, comes at a time when theatre companies like Tinderbox, who almost exclusively use local actors, are having budgets cut."
The actors union Equity said it was concerned about the casting of the play, but it added that it had been assured that forthcoming productions at the theatre would have local actors in the cast.
However, actor and former Lyric board member Dan Gordon said those who were complaining were "whingeing".
He pointed out that the Lyric had created hundreds of local jobs, both on-stage and off it, and posted online: "Did anyone think how this will play out in the public eye? How will this look to other creatives outside Belfast - are we demanding quotas based on postcode, not talent?
"Try whingeing (like) this anywhere else in any other business in these islands and they will laugh at you.
"It's great to see fluent b****cks, ill-considered, petty, ignorant, bordering on xenophobic attitudes seeping back into the arts. Grow up this is show... business."