Friday, November 12, 2010

The Lyric Players Theatre’s First Season

Before Breakfast, 1952
After the triumph of the Christmas party productions, the O’Malleys and a small group of friends gathered at Ulsterville House, the O’Malley family home, in January 1951 to discuss the possibility of further projects. It was decided to put on one act plays initially, and the O’Malleys volunteered the use of their home – beginning a practice which was to continue until the move in 1968 to a purpose-built theatre. That was a long way off at this point however, with the first invited audience of just twenty five people attending the first production, Robert Farren’s Lost Light starring Frances McShane. The first season also saw productions of At the Hawk’s Well by W.B. Yeats and The Kiss by Austin Clarke.

Princely Fortune, 1952
Mary O’Malley originated the name of the Lyric Players Theatre. Her intention was to associate with, but be distinct from, Austin Clarke’s Lyric Theatre in Dublin. The success of the new theatre continued the following year, with productions of Before Breakfast by Eugene O’Neill, Princely Fortune (adapted from the Chinese) and A Swan Song by Anton Chekhov. It was very much a family endeavour, with Mary’s mother making costumes for these early productions and her brother Gerard assisting with props and set design.

In November 1952 the O’Malleys moved to a new home, Beechbank on Derryvolgie Avenue, Belfast. This house was to be the backdrop to dozens more productions and would see the transition of the Lyric Players Theatre from amateur group of enthusiasts to professional theatre company.

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