A total of 12 young people from the Lyric Drama Studio, have won places at prestigious drama schools across the UK and Ireland since the Lyric Theatre reopened in 2011.
One successful graduate from the Lyric Drama Studio has been working with this year’s group of 16 young actors, currently in rehearsals for the Northern Ireland premiere of historical drama, 55 Days.
Chris McCurry, from Glengormley, has just been offered a place at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music & Drama. He did the Drama Studio course in 2011-12 and went on to perform as a professional actor in the highly acclaimed Lyric production, The Long Road.
“The Drama Studio offers a glimpse of what life would be like in a drama school,” said 24-year-old Chris. “It gave me the discipline and determination to succeed.”
The 12 successful applicants have won places at a range of drama schools including the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and The Lir, Ireland’s National Academy of Dramatic Art at Trinity College in Dublin.
The Lyric Drama Studio offers young people, aged 18-25, a chance to experience training in acting at a professional level. The course runs on Saturdays from September until March and culminates in a production performed at the Lyric Theatre to the public. All the tutors on the course are practising theatre professionals with extensive experience.
This year’s production, 55 Days, is the highly charged new drama by Howard Brenton which tells the story of the 55 days before the execution of King Charles 1.
It is December 1648. The Army has occupied London. Parliament votes not to put the imprisoned king on trial, so the Army moves against Westminster in the first and only military coup in English history. What follows over the next fifty-five days, as Cromwell seeks to compromise with a king who will do no such thing, is nothing less than the forging of a new nation, an entirely new world.
55 Days premiered at the Hampstead Theatre in London in October 2012 but this is the first performance in Ireland. The 16 aspiring actors come from across Northern Ireland and as far away as Surrey.
Belfast has some interesting connections to the English Civil War. It was the executed king’s father, James I who granted Belfast town status in 1613. Many of the streets around Botanic Avenue where there is a large student population have names derived from the Civil War, such as Cromwell Road, Ireton Street (after the General Henry Ireton who married Oliver Cromwell’s daughter), and Cameron Street (after Lord Fairfax of Cameron, the parliamentarian commander-in-chief).
Philip Crawford, Creative Learning Coordinator at the Lyric, said: “Drama Studio is the Lyric Theatre’s flagship training programme for young actors. It is both exciting and rewarding to work with them to create a new piece of theatre using the skills they have acquired during the course, particularly on such a contemporary and challenging script from celebrated writer Howard Brenton.”