Renowned writer, director, actor Dan Gordon has been a long-term supporter and former Board member of the Lyric Theatre. He is currently working on the forthcoming satirical Christmas show Forget Turkey! He gives his opinion on the latest drama to engulf the Lyric.
Guess where I’m working this week? The Lyric Theatre – dah dah dahhh. Cue the baddie music – the twiddly moustache and the long black cape. In case you missed it the Public Accounts Committee at Stormont pointed a pokey finger and shook it at an independent consultancy firm in London who appointed the builders to build the new Lyric.
Despite the fact that neither the builders nor the Lyric had any influence over the decision as to who won the contract – everybody looked bad because records weren’t properly kept by the London lads. Yeah ok fair enough they should – but it wasn’t the builder’s or the Lyric’s job to make sure they did – yet they were made to look shifty because of the pointy pokey fingers.
Oh yes also the builders (Gilbert Ash) handed over 150 grand as a ‘donation’ 6 months after they started work. Oooooooh looks bad – especially when we know how many expenses scandals – back-handers and dodgy deals have happened in the political arena over the years – or does it? Gilbert Ash has a history of charitable donations – they’ve given money to the Opera House and the Waterfront Hall as well as the Lyric and have said they will continue to do so. They did it openly – publicly and decently – not in some off-shore account or in a brown envelope at a party.
Did you know that the Lyric raised 5 ½ million quid of private money from trusts, foundations, individual givers, sponsors and donors to add to the government funds? Yes the luvvies came up with an unprecedented 26% of the total cost of the entire gig. 150 grand is a fabulously generous single donation but set against 5 ½ million it’s not exactly a game changer.
Thousands of hours of ‘free’ time were unselfishly given by several dozen past and present Lyric board members over many years on the long road to reaching the finish line. I know I was one of them – and there for most of it.
Writers donated royalties – administrators – actors – directors gave their time for free – poets – musicians – painters – sculptors – gave their talents – academics – film makers – audiences – even the cleaners – box office staff and the guys who build the sets brought time, cash and unwavering dedication to the table.
So in thanks to them and despite the week’s speculation that there might possibly (if you squint and use a mirror to look up your own bottom) have been “manipulated” elements to the tendering process to construct the new building – the world didn’t stop.
Work continued in the award winning – on budget – on time – does exactly what it says on the tin – triumph of architecture and hard graft. We continued rehearsing for the adult Christmas show that I’m doing – Forget Turkey – We liked it so much we’re going to Phuket again (from 8th December). Upstairs final touches were being put to the children’s offering Cinderella – it starts previewing for weans (today week 24th November).
Down in Dublin a third Lyric show Behan at the Chelsea starring Adrian Dunbar wowed critics just as it did last month in New York.
The ‘handshake’ between HM The Queen – and the First and Deputy First Ministers happened in the Lyric. Kenneth Branagh came back and brought Rob Brydon to the Lyric. Simon Callow played Jesus in the Lyric. Liam Neeson – Ciaran Hinds, Conleth Hill and Jimmy Nesbitt lent their names to the Lyric. Marie Jones and Ian McElhinney are part of the furniture in the Lyric. Around 20,000 young people have been directly associated with the Lyric.
Sometimes it’s difficult to get it off your shoe once you walk in it and it is particularly infuriating when you don’t even own a dog. Sometimes it’s best to say nothing – but I feel like the ma in the Royale Family when she used the butter knife to scrape the patterned sole of the trainers into the kitchen sink – repulsed but resolute. There's something heavily contaminated about this but it's not the Lyric.
RE-PRINTED FROM THE SUNDAY LIFE, DAN GORDON'S WEEKLY COLUMN ON 17/11/13