May Day, May Day – Lyric turns two!

On its second birthday, the landmark Lyric Theatre can reveal it has welcomed nearly 260,000 visitors through its doors since it was rebuilt in 2011. As it celebrates turning two on 1 May, Northern Ireland’s leading producing theatre looks back on a dramatic two years of multiple awards and drama – both on and off-stage.

There have been 882 performances of 108 productions in the new theatre across its two stages – the Danske Bank Stage and Naughton Studio. A total of 20 shows have been produced by the Lyric Theatre, including six World Premieres, proving that the Lyric really is the home of home-made drama in Northern Ireland.

Situated on the banks of the Lagan, the Lyric is not just a south Belfast theatre but attracts its biggest audience from outside the city (61% from outside Belfast). A massive 7% of its audience also comes from out of state showing that quality theatre is a boon for tourism.

More than 2,000 Super Saver tickets and 1,500 plus community group tickets were sold at just £5 over the past two years, making the Lyric affordable to audiences regardless of their income.

Nearly 18,000 young people have also benefited from the variety of courses offered by the Creative Learning Department at the Lyric. A total of 26 young people, aged 18 – 25, have successfully completed six months actor training through the Lyric Drama Studio and show as much promise to be the next Liam Neeson or Stella McCusker!

The building itself has won 18 architectural and theatre awards, including reaching the final six shortlist for the prestigious Stirling Prize last autumn.

World-renowned actor, Simon Callow, helped celebrate the theatre’s second birthday with the Annual Lyric Lecture this month delivered to a packed audience. Fresh from his run in The Man Jesus, Callow is a big fan of the Lyric describing it as “one of the most beautiful new theatres in Europe”.

Lyric Chief Executive Ciaran McAuley said: “We are delighted that the new theatre is welcoming many new audiences who have never been to the Lyric before. We have achieved this through an exciting combination of first rate Lyric productions alongside the best of visiting companies, and a range of comedy and music events, and quality family entertainment.

“As we celebrate our second anniversary, we would like to thank all those who have contributed to our success so far – our hard-working staff, actors and creative teams, funders and sponsors, the media, and our audiences.”

Lyric Artistic Director, Richard Croxford said: “It’s hard to believe the new building has been open two years on 1 May. We are delighted with the support we have had from audiences to our exciting and varied programme and look forward to that continuing in the years to come. The new building is only two years old but Belfast as a city is celebrating 400 years and we have enjoyed a wonderful season commemorating this with our Tales of the City plays which continue this month.

“In fact, our birthday coincides with the opening night of Love, Billy by Graham Reid which has been hugely anticipated by fans, new and old, of the seminal Billy plays. The standing ovation given at the first preview performance of Love, Billy shows audiences are relishing this home-grown drama and seeing what has happened to the Martin family over the last 25 years.”

Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland said; “As principal funder of the Lyric, the Arts Council is delighted that Northern Ireland’s only full time producing theatre has continued to enjoy such a successful second year.  A string of theatre and architectural awards, coupled with an exciting and memorable programme, has ensured the Lyric’s popularity with locals and tourists alike and it can rightfully claim to have helped put Northern Ireland back on the artistic map. The theatre will undoubtedly build on its achievements with the £2.4million invested by the Arts Council continuing to protect, strengthen and develop the arts infrastructure here while stimulating the economy through cultural tourism.”