A lady arrived at the Lyric Theatre today who can certainly pack a punch…and was teaching our actors a trick or two.
With her long strawberry-blonde hair, Alison de Burgh, looks and sounds like she should be singing on stage, not fighting. But as the UK's first female fight director, her unusual job is to train actors how to make combat scenes as realistic as possible while ensuring their safety.
"People are surprised at my job because I look so feminine and have long hair but it is strawberry-blonde so there is a fierce red-head in me," she said laughing.
"I was inspired by Errol Flynn. I grew up watching all the Saturday afternoon swashbucklers. I was the only girl in our row of houses, although I was never a tomboy, I only had the boys to play with. I went to dance classes from the age of five and when we did stage plays I just loved the swords and daggers."
Alison flew over from England this morning to work with the cast of our new comedy-thriller, The Civilisation Game. There are a few kicks and punches in the show so director Tim Loane decided to invite Alison over to ensure it was all done professionally. This was Alison's second trip to the newly-rebuilt Lyric Theatre. She was here last autumn when Kenneth Branagh and Rob Brydon starred in The Painkiller. But she revealed yesterday that her first appearance on stage as an actor was in Belfast back in the nineties.
"I had trained as actor originally," she said. "My first ever job was with a tour of Wuthering Heights and we came to the Grand Opera House in Belfast. I was the under-study but I went on stage in Belfast - the first time I was ever on stage."
Alison has noticed how much the city has changed since then and loves to come over to Northern Ireland.
"The difference in the city is absolutely phenomenal from my first visit and the people are so friendly," she said.
"I'm enjoying working on The Civilisation Game set which is not very civilized! It is really good fun and it has a really clever twist."
Alison hopes to return to the Lyric for future staged fights and when she's not directing fight scenes, guess what she does?
"I coach the Queen's bodyguard - the Royal Company of Archers - I teach them how to shoot…"