I recently came upon two photographs of the original stage used by the nascent Lyric Theatre in the O'Malley family home on Derryvolgie Avenue, Belfast. While the Lyric archive contains hundreds of photographs, these are unique in that they show the studio outside of productions, and is a great chance to see exactly the scale on which the early productions were staged. Great use was made of set design to disguise the limited space within which the actors worked, but in these images we see how tiny the stage and seating area were. During the early to mid-1960s the Lyric experimented with staging productions externally at other venues in Belfast in order to overcome these limitations, but these efforts proved fruitless, and it became clear that a purpose built theatre was the only solution.
An interesting project has recently been underway, initiated by King’s College London historian, Dr Hugh Denard, in association with Trinity College Dublin’s Long Room Hub and Dublin-based, digital graphics company, NOHO. They are using similar archival images to create a digital model of the old Abbey Theatre as it appeared on its opening night in December 1904.
Abbey Theatre Reconstruction - Day 01 from Noho on Vimeo.