Et tu, “Billy”? Belfast Shakespeare play goes to Stratford

Budding young amateur actors from Belfast have been given an opportunity most professional actors would kill for – the chance to perform Shakespeare in his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon.

A group of young people, aged 17 to 22, from YouthAction’s Rainbow Factory, head to Stratford over the Twelfth holidays, where they will perform a modernised version of Julius Caesar set during a loyalist paramilitary feud.

The amateur cast will perform at the prestigious Courtyard Theatre in Stratford on Saturday 14 July as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) Open Stages Project.

Some 264 amateur companies and ten regional theatres are taking part in the RSC Open Stages Project which aims to develop and celebrate amateur theatre and reforge the bond it has with professional theatre.

The Rainbow Factory was chosen to go to Stratford out of six amateur theatre companies from Ireland, north and south, who performed Shakespeare-themed productions in the Lyric Theatre in April.

The Rainbow Factory is a performing arts project which has been run by the charity YouthAction Northern Ireland for more than 20 years. It holds weekly classes in dance, drama, music and technical theatre at their purpose built, theatre and workshop space in College Square North, Belfast and the Old Town Hall in Banbridge.

Ciarán Hinds, YouthAction Northern Ireland’s Patron is delighted that “the Company” is taking part. He said: “It’s terrific that our Rainbow Factory has been invited to perform at the Royal Shakespeare Company Open Stages Festival at Stratford-upon-Avon. It’s a wonderful place; I played there for a whole year in 1990. The young people will have an amazing time and the memory will remain with them for quite a while. I wish them great success.”

Philip Crawford, Lyric Creative Learning Co-ordinator said: “The Lyric Theatre is delighted to be able to facilitate this unique and exciting opportunity for these young actors. They’ve been part of the Open Stages project since it began last summer; the chance to now present their work in Stratford for the RSC will be something they will never forget. We are hugely grateful to Belfast Harbour, whose kind sponsorship has made the trip possible.”

The final stage of the RSC Open Stages Project takes place at the end of August when an amateur cast will work with the Lyric’s professional and creative team to stage Dogg’s Hamlet, Cahoot’s Macbeth by Tom Stoppard.

The Lyric Theatre has a wide-ranging drama programme for children and young people from age 7-19 this summer.

The Lyric’s Creative Learning Department is offering four workshops for different age groups, each lasting a week, led by a team of highly experienced facilitators and featuring a variety of fun, drama-related activities. These include acting, movement and voice, and for younger children sessions on making props and costumes.

The first two workshops sold out but there are places still available on workshops later in the summer and a number of bursaries for families who need financial assistance which covers the full fees, travel allowances and lunch.

Lyric workshops availability:

Musical Theatre for age groups 11-18 years:

Monday 23 – Friday 27 July: 10am-4pm; Saturday 28 July: 10am-1pm

– Cost £120

Drama for age groups 14-16 years:

Monday 30 – 3 August: 10am-4pm; Saturday 4 August: 10am-1pm
– Cost £120