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'Lynchpin' of the Lyric and mother figure for its actors

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 20/05/2015

Marie (right) with Hillary Clinton
Marie (right) with Hillary Clinton

Tributes have been paid to a woman described as one of the stalwarts of Belfast's Lyric Theatre.

Marie Annett served as its caretaker for more than three decades.

A "mother figure" to up-and-coming actors, her passing has caused deep sadness across the arts world.

Marie's association with the theatre dated back to around the time it opened on Ridegway Street in south Belfast in 1968.

Her tireless work was recognised in 1994 when she was made an MBE in the Queen's New Year Honours. She retired around five years ago.

Actor and theatre director Sam McCready recalled how Marie was "totally devoted" to the Lyric.

Speaking from Baltimore in the US, he said: "Marie was a character, the heart and soul of the place.

"She was honest, welcoming, wonderfully generous, fearsomely direct and unstinting in her care of the actors and staff backstage."

Mr McCready, who worked for over 20 years with Marie, said she was a mother figure to many young actors. She was also fiercely loyal to Mary O'Malley, the Lyric's founder, he recalled.

"She really cared about the people," Mr McCready added.

"Every actor who came into that theatre was made to feel at home and she cared for them. She had a heart of gold, she was a mother figure to so many people."

Actor and playwright Dan Gordon also spoke with fondness about a woman he remembers as "a lynchpin" of the Lyric.

"Marie was the caretaker and a mother-type figure to the Lyric Theatre," he said.

"She was there from its inception and looked after the maintenance of the building and everybody's lives as well.

"She was just the soul of the building. Marie lived across the way in the Annadale flats and was always on call, even during the darkest days of the Troubles."

He added: "She was a terrific woman.

"She got the MBE for services to the Lyric, which was very well deserved. It's a great loss."

Moving tributes were also posted online.

Broadcaster Padraig Coyle wrote: "We have so many great memories of Marie, with her big heart, her big smile and her warm welcome.

"For so long, she simply was the Lyric. A sad day for NI theatre."

Una NicEoin wrote: "A total legend and the foundation of the place for the longest time, so sad to hear this."

The Lyric Theatre said: "We are deeply saddened to hear of the death of Marie Annett, who worked as the caretaker for many years at the Lyric Theatre.

"She gave selflessly of herself since the theatre opened on Ridgeway Street in 1968 and for that commitment she was recognised in the Queen's Honours List with an MBE.

"The Lyric Theatre offers sincere condolences to Marie's family and friends."

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