Graduates off to thrilling start in Irish premiere of Punk Rock at Lyric 

Three young drama graduates have been given the dream start to their careers with starring roles in a thrilling new play at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast this summer.

Belfast actor Rhys Dunlop has just graduated from The Lir Academy, Ireland’s National Academy of Dramatic Art, in Dublin and has been cast in a lead role in the powerful teen drama Punk Rock at the Lyric.

This explosive play about the lives of a group of sixth-formers dealing with exams and torturous peer pressure is set to thrill audiences this summer (10 August – 6 September). It is the Irish premiere of Simon Stephens’ shocking play about teens in contemporary Britain and will be directed by the award-winning director, Selina Cartmell.

Rhys has been cast as the highly intelligent but deeply troubled William Carlisle and is set to star alongside two of his Lir contemporaries, Lauren Coe and Rory Corcoran, both from Dublin.

The Lyric’s own Drama Studio and QUB graduate, Laura Smithers (55 Days) has also been cast and she will join the seven-strong cast which includes the very talented Aisha Fabienne Ross, Ian Toner and 19-year-old Jonah Hauer-King.

Rhys said: “I could not be happier doing my first show after The Lir in the Lyric. Not only does it mean that I get to work at home but also at one of the most exciting theatres in the country, I can’t wait to see how the new season pans out – I think Jimmy Fay has done a fantastic job programming ‘Northern Soul’ and I am very proud to be a part of that.

“The Lyric is such a gorgeous venue too – it actually reminds me of The Lir, the way it sits beside the water! It’s also really comforting to be working with people like Selina and Monica, especially having already met and worked alongside them through the Lir, I think that speaks volumes about the training and opportunities The Lir has provided us with.”

Loughlin Deegan, Director of The Lir said: “We are delighted that three of our graduating students have been cast in Punk Rock at The Lyric Theatre. A fantastic start to a professional career for these young actors and a strengthening of ties between The Lir and the Lyric.

“The Lyric was one of the first venues we visited on our all-Ireland road show raising awareness about The Lir Academy and the training that we offer and we are thrilled that the ties between the two venues have been further strengthened over the years. Wishing our graduating actors, the cast and crew of this production every success and I’m looking forward to visiting The Lyric to see them in action.”

Punk Rock is a powerful piece of theatre about the complex lives of a clique of sixth-formers from a private school in Stockport preparing for their mock A-Level exams.

They struggle with their identity, questioning the status quo, while coping with the extreme pressures of exams, parents and peers. Underlying the small talk and banter in the school library, the play explores the darker issues of mental health and the stark realities of life as an adolescent.

Director Selina Cartmell said: “Punk Rock has a raw and explosive energy that plugs directly and honestly into the hearts and minds of a group of sixth-formers preparing for their mock A-levels.

“Simon has written a bold, visceral and fearless play that make you feel more alive.  He vividly captures the twilight years of adolescence by evoking the humour, self-doubt and aching desire of love and lust that challenges and confronts the teenager today.

“I am very excited about this production as it offers me the opportunity to collaborate with a cracking young cast of actors, most of whom will be making their professional stage debut, on a play that promises to thrill and shock in equal measure.”