The Lyric Announces Year of Celebrations to Mark 50 Years

The Lyric Announces Year of Celebrations to Mark 50 Years on Ridgeway Street

The Lyric Theatre is delighted to announce a programme celebrating its 50 year role at the heart of the history, heritage and contemporary culture of theatre in Northern Ireland.  Opening for business on the banks of the Lagan in 1968, its visionary founders were motivated by the fundamental belief that society needs accessible spaces in which artists can have the courage of their convictions and be allowed to soar.  That small theatre, founded by Mary O’Malley, became a haven during the turbulent time of the Troubles, providing a space for reflection and a place to broaden horizons by looking outwards. 

The Lyric engages audiences at home and abroad by producing a stimulating, high quality programme of classical and contemporary drama, using the very best of Irish theatre professionals. Since 1968, the Lyric has utilised the power of live theatre to empower, inspire, engage and challenge audiences.  The theatre never closed during the Troubles and rebuilt for a new era when peace came. The life of the Lyric matches the wider life of Northern Ireland over the past 50 years – an open, welcoming space at the heart of the arts; a place of dialogue, drama and encounter.  

Audiences have grown, turnover has increased and brought more theatre to more people with touring work than at any time in the history of the theatre.  As Northern Ireland’s only full-time producing theatre, it is the largest employer of actors in the region and represents a cornerstone for the industry.  Following extensive capital development in 2011 on its existing site on the banks of the River Lagan, the new Lyric is almost three times the size of its predecessor, and has attracted over ½ million audiences and played to a further 60,000 on tour.  It has provided nearly 600 weeks of employment for actors, whilst contracts for freelance directors and designers ensures that the blossoming film and television industry continues to have the talent and expertise for it to grow.

 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.  It continues to nurture and support writers, performers, directors and designers, playing a part in the wider development of NI as a centre of excellence for film & TV drama production. 

In recent years 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).  It profiles the most exciting new voices in Irish Theatre through its New Playwrights development programme, showcasing and its support for Artist in Residencies.  Most recently, in 2017 the Lyric’s 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.

The Lyric is Northern Ireland’s most important resource for the professional development of young and aspiring artists. Since the new building opened in 2011, there is an enviable track record in encouraging young people to fulfil their creative potential.  The Creative Learning Department has seen a staggering 33 young people gain places at Drama Schools, taking to the stage on both Broadway and the West End. For example, in 2018 one of its ‘alumni’ who credits the Lyric with preparing him for the future, Anthony Boyle will be on the Broadway stage as Scorpius Malfoy in the long awaited New York premiere of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.  

 Executive Producer of the Lyric, Jimmy Fay, has attracted local and international critical acclaim and toured successfully to New York, Dublin, London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Letterkenny, Cork, Perth and Wales. Productions have included actors such as Sir Kenneth Branagh, Simon Callow, Rob Brydon, Adrian Dunbar and Conleth Hill, and new co-productions with the Young Vic, the Dublin Theatre Festival, and the Abbey and Soho Theatre.  This year alone, the Lyric has received seven nominations for RED, co-production with Prime Cut.

 Jimmy Fay commented,

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.”

 As part of the 50th celebrations, the Lyric is looking for your memories, anything that audiences can recall of seeing shows in the theatre (old and new) over the years – be it a memory, old programmes, or photos. The memories will be added to an ongoing archive and exhibited later in the year and on social media.

Further 50th celebration announcements in the Spring will include:

–       In addition to over 15 visiting shows per month, new landmark productions for both Belfast and international audiences

–       A series of ‘In Conversation With’ events in partnership with the BBC NI’s The Arts Show, profiling key figures associated with the Lyric

–       Two celebratory gala events which will be held in May and October.


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.”


The Lyric’s 50th Season Programme can be found at

Box Office 028 9038 1081.



The Lyric is always on the lookout for exciting new work to produce, and passionate about supporting and developing emerging talent.  Now as part of our 50th celebrations and building on the success of last year’s inaugural programme, the Lyric are accepting script submissions for our New Playwrights Programme 2018.  Aimed at new and emerging playwrights, this six month programme will provide intensive, hands-on development support for four writers, with an opportunity to showcase new work in the Naughton Studio in October 2018 as part of the Belfast International Arts Festival, showcasing the most exciting new voices in Irish theatre.


The Lyric Theatre and NI present Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s thrilling and darkly comic masterpiece.  Mack the Knife – gangster, celebrity, addict – secretly marries Polly Peachum, daughter of London’s most successful conman. Mr Peachum’s quest for revenge sets off a series of conflicts that expose the double dealings at the heart of society. How can anyone win when there is nobody left to trust?  Directed by Northern Ireland Opera Artistic Director Walter Sutcliffe, and conducted by Hard Rain Soloist Ensemble conductor Sinead Hayes.

31 Jan – 10 February


Dion Boucicault’s exuberant tale of desire, duty and betrayal, based on an infamous true crime.

A financial crisis forces Hardress Cregan to choose between true love and family honour, a dilemma which leads to the forming of a horrifying plan.  Boucicault’s masterful interweaving of plot and character, comedy and suspense, has been captivating audiences since it premiere in 1860. A co-production with Bruiser Theatre Company, directed by Lisa May.

7 – 28 April


Brian Friel’s bittersweet meditation on love and loss, told in two parts: Winners and Losers.
In Winners we meet Joe and Mag, a young couple with their lives ahead of them, a secret between them, and a shadow over them. In Losers, Andy and Hanna cope with the unromantic reality of domestic life after the spark has gone out. Shot through with humour and pathos, Friel’s play has as much to say about Ireland’s shifting social attitudes as it does about love.
Directed by Emma Jordan.

12 May – 10 June


The story of influential music promoter, producer and legendary founder of the record label – the undisputed Godfather of Belfast Punk, Terri Hooley – will be brought to the stage.  Good Vibrations tells the story of Terri Hooley, a radical, rebel and music-lover in 1970s Belfast when the conflict shuts down his city. As all his friends take sides and take up arms, Terri opens a record shop on ‘the most bombed half-mile in Europe’. Good Vibrations underlines the communal spirit of bands that gather up behind the record shop owner who won’t say no.  It celebrates energy, ideas, optimism, self-worth, and the empowerment of punk rock.  Adapted for the stage by the team who co-wrote the Good Vibrations biopic, Colin Carberry and Glenn Patterson, and directed by Des Kennedy.

1 – 30 September

Following on from this year’s magical production, Beauty & the Beast, we bring you a magical musical version of Lewis Carroll’s much-loved classic tale for Christmas 2018.  Tumble down the rabbit hole with Alice in pursuit of the White Rabbit and discover the enchanting realm of Wonderland, where nothing is quite as it seems. Along her journey Alice will meet an eclectic assortment of strange and fantastical characters, including the fearsomely fickle Queen of Hearts…Music and lyrics by Paul Boyd.

29 Nov – 05 Jan 19


Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *