Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 May 2015

Lyric players get a change of scenery

Pictured at the launch of 'Lyric at Elmwood' new season are Geraldine Hughes with Conor Grimes (left) and Alan McKee. Geraldine will star in black comedy The Beauty Queen of Leenane and comic duo Grimes and McKee will produce and star in their production Howl!
Pictured at the launch of 'Lyric at Elmwood' new season are Geraldine Hughes with Conor Grimes (left) and Alan McKee. Geraldine will star in black comedy The Beauty Queen of Leenane and comic duo Grimes and McKee will produce and star in their production Howl!

Actors are used to packing their bags and heading to venues great and small in search of an audience.

And if there isn’t a theatre, they’ll perform somewhere else — in a church hall, a community centre, a field or even a taxi.

So it’s no surprise that the Lyric Players have been looking around for a temporary performance space while their new theatre is being built in Ridgeway Street.

They haven’t had to move far — just round the corner, really, to the Elmwood Hall on Belfast’s Malone Road. And artistic director Richard Croxford has revealed what’s in store for audiences for the forthcoming dramatic season.

First up is Martin McDonagh’s black comedy The Beauty Queen of Leenane, with Hollywood star Geraldine Hughes and veteran actress Stella McCusker heading the cast. Croxford tells me rehearsals have never been such fun — McDonagh’s wicked script has had the company convulsed with laughter.

There’s a more serious tone in Sam McCready’s adapation of Helen Lewis’s Holocaust memoir, A Time To Speak. The show combines live performance with multimedia dance projection to give a harrowing insight into the survival of the Lyric’s choreographer, Lewis, through the Nazi regime.

Christmas entertainment for children comes in the shape of Paul Boyd’s magical production of The Tale of the Beauty and the Tail of the Beast. Grown-up laughs will be provided by Grimes & McKee’s Howl!

Owen McCafferty’s new play The Absence of Women takes to the Elmwood stage early next year. The poignant story of two ordinary, lonely Belfast men, directed by Rachel O’Riordan, is already being hailed as one of McCafferty’s finest dramas.

And while Croxford and his team are busy preparing for all this, the Lyric is also adding the final touches to a programme of free theatre-training for aspiring actors.

Aimed at 18-24 year olds in or from Northern Ireland, the Lyric Drama Studio scheme aims to equip young actors who are serious about the profession with skills that will help them to realise their dreams.

It’s a role that’s been played by former incarnations of the Lyric Studio, which has helped a generation of actors seize the spotlight.

This year’s Lyric Drama Studio programme will be led by Anna Newell, currently the artistic director for the Centre for Excellence in the Creative and Performing Arts at Queen’s.

The Lyric’s six-month programme involves weekly skills-building workshops and masterclasses with a range of visiting artists and two very different intense rehearsal periods leading to a production of Moira’s Buffini’s A Vampire Story in the Elmwood Hall.

Participants will also work in a devised project in collaboration with the Ormeau Baths Gallery — so participants can explore two very different ways of making performance in two very different venues. And, best of all, it’s all completely free to those who are selected from the auditions.

There’s no time to waste, though. Auditions for this year’s Lyric Drama Studio will take place on Saturday, September 26.

Potential participants should sign up for an hour-long group audition slot and come with a one-minute monologue (anything you like).

For further information or to sign up for audition, please contact Anna Newell at And with any luck, we’ll see you in the spotlight.

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