Lyric Makes Its Debut Today

An international architectural competition held almost eight years ago will today come to fruition as Belfast's newly rebuilt Lyric Theatre opens for the doors in time for its first performance.

In 2003, the winners were declared as O'Donnell and Tuomey - taking the lead from 56 entries as the architects to design the new theatre facility.

At almost three times the size of the old theatre, the new building is 54,164 square feet (5,026 square metres) and has three distinct areas.

A gala performance of Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible' directed by Conall Morrison will be the first production.

The new theatre cost £18m to re-build, of which £6m came from private donations and sponsorships.

It was constructed on the Lyric's existing site in Stranmillis on the banks of the River Lagan.

The new development includes a 389-seat main auditorium, a new studio, dedicated youth and education space and improved facilities for staff and artists.

The original theatre opened on the Lisburn Road in 1951 and moved to premises on Ridgeway Street about 20 years later, but problems with the building and dated facilities led to a decision to close it.

Now, a festival of events has been organised to welcome the iconic name back into production.
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While opening with The Crucible by Arthur Miller, rehearsals are also be under way for Brendan at the Chelsea, the opening production of the theatre's second main space in the Naughton Studio. Adrian Dunbar returns to the Lyric to direct and play the leading role in the play, which runs in the Naughton Studio, from 21 May to 19 June.

As The Crucible plays out in the main auditorium, with the hellish Salem witchcraft trials as an allegory to McCarthyism in the USA, the rest of the theatre will open up with a series of unique and taster events.

The McGrath Suite, the Spare Room and the theatre's new Café Bar will spring to life with a special opening fortnight festival of events including rehearsed readings, story-telling, music sessions, dance and drama workshops suitable for all ages.

Workshops include Shadow Play, Story Trekkers, prop making, drama workshops, set and lighting design.

Scottish super group Session A9 bring their unique fusion of traditional tunes and sophisticated Celtic class to the Lyric's stage to close the celebratory opening fortnight on 15 May on the Northern Bank-sponsored Stage.

World-class traditional musicians John McSherry, Donogh Hennessy and Mike McGoldrick will open the concert and bring a festival flavour to the stage. And there will be free traditional music sessions in association with An Droichead on 6, 13 and 14 May in the Café Bar.

The Lyric is also to celebrate Northern Ireland's fifth Polish Cultural Festival with a performance from renowned Polish pianist Pawel Kaczmarczyk and his Audiofeeling Band on 5 May and on Sunday 8 May a one-off performance of Poland 3 - Iran 2, a theatre football drama event which affectionately looks back at the memorable game in the 1976 Olympics.

See: Lyric Theatre Stages Opening Festival


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