New photo exhibition reveals rich legacy of Lyric

Take a trip down memory lane or spot your favourite Lyric production among a new exhibition of photographs – many of them never previously seen – charting more than five decades of drama at Belfast’s best-loved theatre.

The collection showcases the breath-taking range of more than 430 productions that have been staged at the Lyric Theatre since it first opened on Ridgeway Streetin 1968. There is a rich archive of photographs showing both classic and contemporary plays by local, national and international playwrights – from Shakespeare and Yeats to Arthur Miller and Marie Jones.

There are many famous faces among the photographs, including the theatre’s Patron and Hollywood star, Liam Neeson, who began his professional career at the Lyric in the 1970s. There are a host of other great local actors presented including recently knighted Sir Kenneth Branagh, Ciaran Hinds, Stella McCusker, Adrian Dunbar, Conleth Hill and Linda Wray.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Ulster Arts Club (UAC), the Lyric has delved deep into its archives and reframed 120 of these fascinating photographs to display around the theatre. The exhibition was launched at a recent preview for the UAC and is now open to the public as a permanent display in the Café Bar and corridors of the beautiful new theatre.

A selection of the photographs will be on display backstage where they will inspire the cast and crew of current and future productions. Members of the public who avail of the frequent building tours which go behind-the-scenes of the theatre will also be able to view this collection that contains both colour and black and white images.

Angela McCloskey, who spearheaded the capital building fund, compiled the photographic collection which she described as “a labour of love”.

“As the Lyric begins a brand new chapter in its long and distinguished history, we wanted to acknowledge the important legacy of its past and, in particular, to pay tribute to the many great artists who have graced its stage over five decades and made such an important contribution to our rich cultural life,” she said.

“We are delighted by the glowing reviews and many awards for the building, but we feel that our new home will not be truly complete until our artistic history is on permanent display. With the support of the Ulster Arts Club, we are confident that this permanent exhibition of photography will pay a fitting tribute and create a true sense of history in this very special place on the banks of the River Lagan.”

Ulster Arts Club chairman, Kevin McCarry said: “With many of our members having had strong ties with the Lyric Theatre, the Ulster Arts Club was delighted to be in a position whereby we could contribute in a tangible way to audience participation within the new building. At the preview our members were extremely pleased with the selections made by Angela McCloskey who provided a personal guided tour along with Lyric Board members. This photographic exhibition – which included photographs showing past UAC members treading the boards – adds greatly to the atmosphere of the theatre and is a lasting legacy for the UAC and its connections with the Lyric.”