As a landmark new building on the Belfast landscape, the Lyric Theatre gets a lot of visitors on a daily basis.
Many visitors take a guided tour to see the impressive new theatre spaces or hear about the art collection and theatre’s 60 year history. Others just wander around the entrance foyer or up to the café bar with its magnificent views over the River Lagan.
One unassuming visitor who was hovering near the café bar turned out to have a very intimate connection with the Lyric. The young lady was with her father who was snapping away with his camera. When I approached them, I discovered they had come all the way from Toronto, Canada and that she was none other than the great-niece of Lyric Theatre founder, Mary O'Malley.
Dr Pearse and Mary O'Malley founded the Lyric Players Theatre Company in 1951 at their home in Derryvolgie Avenue in south Belfast. Over the next sixteen years the group and its activities rapidly expanded to include regular poetry recitals, lectures, art exhibitions, a crafts gallery, publishing and a music and drama school for children. Many ofIreland’s finest artists, writers and performers joined forces with the O’Malleys during this extraordinary period of artistic growth. Eventually, in 1968, a purpose-built theatre was opened inRidgeway Street, Stranmillis – the site of the current new theatre.
The O'Malleys' great-niece, Siobhán O'Malley is herself a drama student at the University of Toronto and this was her first visit to the Lyric. Siobhan and her father, Paul Toner, had timed their visit well as we had invited bloggers and tweeters to come in for a sneak peek of a rehearsal of The Importance of Being Earnest on the Northern Bank Stage.
As Siobhán had studied the play, she said she was delighted to watch the scene with Patrick Moy as Jack/Ernest and Melody Grove as Gwendolen who have been getting excellent reviews.
“It was absolutely fantastic,” she said. “The costume and set are amazing! I love the play. I’d love to act here myself – one day.”
The icing on the cake for Siobhán and her dad, Paul Toner, was a photo next to the bust of her great-aunt Mary which is proudly displayed in the theatre.