Celebrated English playwright Simon Stephens condemned cuts to the arts budget as "a massive shame" during a post-show talk at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast last night.
The prolific playwright flew to Belfast yesterday to see the Lyric’s production of his play Punk Rock which has received rave reviews in the national press.
Stephens is the playwright behind the stage adaptation of the best-seller The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,currently playing in the West End and moving to Broadway this autumn.
Punk Rock, written in 2009, tells the explosive story of a group of sixth-formers dealing with peer and exam pressure at a private school in Stockport. The play opened in August and finishes its run on Saturday 6 September at the Lyric Theatre.
Interviewed on stage after last night’s performance by Lyric Executive Producer, Jimmy Fay, Stephens was asked about his success particularly in Germany.
“I find German theatre very inspiring,” he said. “There is an extraordinary level of state funding for the arts in Germany, whereas in the UK and Ireland there is a massive reduction of funding for the arts which is a massive shame.
“People go to the theatre to understand themselves a little bit more. People go to the theatre in Germany not just for the entertainment. I think theatre can be more than entertainment, I think the arts help us to understand who we are.”
Stephens, whose mother is from Belfast, praised the Lyric’s production and said he remains optimistic for the future of drama.
“I’m inspired and moved by the intelligence of this cast,” he said. “I’m quite an optimistic person. If you don’t watch this cast and have a sense of optimism for the acting profession in Ireland then I’d be surprised.”
It was announced last month that the Arts Council of Northern Ireland faces a 2.1% immediate cut and a proposed further 2.3% cut in October. The cuts stem from the June monitoring round, a budget reallocation at the Northern Ireland Assembly, with the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) set to lose £2m.
Punk Rock stars seven young actors and is a dream start to their careers, three of whom – Belfast actor Rhys Dunlop, Lauren Coe and Rory Corcoran – have just graduated from The Lir Academy in Dublin.
Laura Smithers, who just graduated from the Lyric’s own Drama Studio, along with Aisha Fabienne Ross, Ian Toner and Jonah Hauer-King complete the cast.