Three young sportsmen have swapped the rugby pitch and river to tread the boards at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast this summer as they get set to star in a student production in the Naughton Studio.
The teenagers from Belfast and Lisburn are among 11 young people from across Northern Ireland who are in rehearsals for the classic Greek tragedy, Oedipus The King, which runs from 10 – 11 August.
The young people auditioned for the three-week drama programme which gives them the opportunity to work with the Lyric’s professional Creative and Technical teams.
Former Campbell College pupil Ryan Armstrong (17) has a Black Belt in Ju-jitsu and played rugby until he broke his arm. He landed the lead role of Oedipus.
“It’s definitely possible to enjoy both sports and drama,” Ryan said. “I did a GCSE in Drama – it was my favourite subject in school. I’d really like to act professionally, it’s become a really big part of my life. I was surprised and glad to get the part but there are a lot of lines to learn!”
Desmond Eastwood (19) was a keen rugby player at Friends School in Lisburn and won an Irish Schools badminton medal.
“I just finished my first year in Law at Queen’s University and I thought this would be good fun to do over the summer,” Desmond said. “I’d like to keep up the Drama if I can, if I’m good enough.”
Cillian Vallely-Gilroy (17) who attends Royal Belfast Academical Institution is a keen cyclist and rows at Junior 18 Level as well as coaching younger rowers.
“The rowing season is ‘full on’ and involves early starts but we don’t row over the holidays,” he said. “My mum suggested the drama school and I thought I’d like to have a go at it. It has been a great experience. I like the professionalism of it and being treated like adults.”
When he’s not learning his lines, Cillian has kept up with the Olympic rowers on TV. The theme of the Lyric Summer School has been the Olympic Games and so the Greek play, written by Sophocles, was chosen as the final project in this summer’s programme for young people. The Lyric Summer School is generously supported by Belfast Harbour.
The production has been given a 21st century interpretation with a contemporary design. It features live theatre and filmed sequences. The story is about the kingdom of Thebes that is riddled with famine and disease. The people, in desperation, turn to their King for help. In taking action to solve the problem, he uncovers a web of murder, conspiracy and a scandal which rocks the Royal House to its core.
Lyric Creative Learning Co-ordinator, Philip Crawford, took his inspiration from the Cultural Olympiad.
“The idea behind the Cultural Olympiad is that culture and sport are mutually inspirational,” he said. “The disciplined approach and commitment to training, the striving for personal best are values common to both sport and working in theatre. The young people also get to meet others who share a common interest.”
Philip added that many young people are inspired by television talent shows such as X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, which can be deceptive.
“Many young people have an idea that they would like to go into theatre from watching these shows,” he explained. “This project offers them the chance to fully appreciate the rigorous demands and discipline required to become a professional actor.”
Gilly Campbell, Drama and Dance Officer, from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland said: “The Lyric’s Creative Learning Programme is an excellent way to engage local young people with theatre. The Arts Council believes that all children and young people should have access to quality artistic programmes, and schools workshops like these are central to achieving that goal.”
The company of young actors, aged 17-19, will perform Oedipus The King in the Naughton Studio of the Lyric Theatre on Friday 10 August at 8pm and Saturday 11 August at 3pm and 8pm.
Enrolment is now open for the autumn term of the Lyric Theatre School which offers a fantastic range of drama programmes for children and adults.