Brian Friel’s Uncle Vanya in Rehearsals

Rehearsals have begun in the Lyric Theatre for Uncle Vanya with a stunning cast that includes Conleth Hill in the title role. Written by Ireland’s leading playwright Brian Friel after Chekhov, Uncle Vanya will open next month on the theatre’s Northern Bank Stage.

Uncle Vanya will be the first play by Friel the Lyric has produced since moving into its new building and will be directed by Mick Gordon, one of Friel’s choicest directors. Mick previously directed the Lyric’s acclaimed productions of Dancing at Lughnasa and The Home Place.

Speaking on the first day of rehearsals director Mick Gordon said: “This interpretation of Uncle Vanya will be a contemporary comedy with a twist. We have assembled a sensational Irish cast to bring this modern classic to life. Uncle Vanya is arguably one the greatest plays ever written and I can’t wait to start work on this version by Friel.”

When Vanya’s brother-in-law returns to the country estate with his beautiful second wife, Elena, hidden passions break through and the lives of his entire family are thrown into turmoil. Tea, wine and vodka fuel the tensions in this tragicomic story about unrequited love, thwarted ambition and enduring hope.

The cast includes a fine acting ensemble from stage and screen. Conleth Hill starred in the Lyric’s 1999 production of Stones in his Pockets and spent most of the two years that followed in its West End and Broadway versions, winning the Olivier Award and being nominated for a Tony Award. He has subsequently appeared in the West End in Democracy and The Producers, winning a second Olivier, and on Broadway in The Seafarer, receiving a second Tony nomination. Uncle Vanya sees Conleth reunited with Ian McElhinney, who plays Professor Serebryakov, and Mick Gordon. The trio last worked together on The Home Place. Cork girls Orla Fitzgerald (The Wind That Shakes The Barley) and Siobhan McSweeney (The Kitchen) play Vanya’s two leading ladies: the beautiful Elena – his love interest – and Sonya – his sweet-natured niece. Declan Conlon (True West) plays the passionate, educated Doctor Astrov while Lyric stalwarts Barbara Adair (Divorcing Jack) and Stella McCusker (The Beauty Queen of Leenane) are cast as Marina – the wise nanny – and Maria – Vanya’s mother. Ciaran McIntyre (The Absence of Women) plays ‘Waffles’ Telegin, an impoverished man cuckolded by his wife. Paul Mallon (Shameless) completes the cast of nine doubling up as Yefim and the labourer.

Gilly Campbell, Drama and Dance Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: “The Lyric has provided an outstanding cultural programme over the past 60 years, generating some of the most ground-breaking and innovative theatre. It looks like that trend is set to continue in the new theatre with a very exciting season programme planned for the year ahead. We wish the Lyric every success and look forward to experiencing some of the best theatre Northern Ireland has to offer.”

Uncle Vanya runs on the Northern Bank Stage at the Lyric Theatre from 4 February to 10 March.