Belfast Telegraph

Holiday romance for Derry Girls’ Tara as she stars in Shirley Valentine with a Belfast backdrop

Tara Lynne O’Neill
Tara Lynne O’Neill
Tara Lynne O’Neill in Derry Girls
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

Derry Girls actress Tara Lynne O'Neill will be leaving the back streets of the city behind this autumn for a voyage of discovery in the Mediterranean.

The Belfast-born star, who plays mum Mary Quinn in the hit Channel Four comedy, will be the main attraction at the Lyric Theatre later this year when she takes on the role of Shirley Valentine in the play of the same name.

The production is part of a series exploring "voyage and discovery", and Tara told the Belfast Telegraph she's looking forward to getting back to the intimate setting of the theatre.

"I love theatre. One of my first ever professional shows was in the Lyric Theatre," the 43-year-old said.

"I didn't go to drama school, so the Lyric was my training, Learning from amazing actors like John Hewitt, Paula McFetridge, Dan Gordon and Abigail McGibbon.

"Being on the Lyric stage again will feel like coming home."

She admitted the role of Shirley Valentine in the Willy Russell play was one that she has had an eye on for some time, having previously taken on the role of another of his leading ladies, Rita, in Educating Rita, 13 years ago.

"I have always wanted to play Shirley," explained Tara.

"We are setting Shirley Valentine in Belfast. It's a universal story, so place is not important. In the original play Shirley is not trapped in Liverpool, she is trapped in her life, which could be anywhere.

"I'm so excited to be working with director Patrick J O'Reilly, Julie Maxwell and designer Paul Keogan. I believe they are a northern dream team and I always expect the unexpected with this talented bunch."

Part of the attraction of taking on the role is that Tara - who was a regular cast member on EastEnders during the early 2000s - will also get the chance to perform in Derry.

"The city has been so good to me my entire life," she said.

"I have nothing but amazing memories and I really feel like a Derry girl." And, quoting one of the memorable lines from the series two finale of Derry Girls, she added: "It's a state of mind, don't you know!"

  • Shirley Valentine runs from August 31 until October 5, followed by The Playboy of the Western World. For further information, visit:

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