Friday, 4 December 2015

New Play From the Archives Staged as part of 'Arts in Action'.

As part of the Arts in Action programme, drama students from Galway and Belfast, Martin Kenny, Luke Bannon and Sarah Blair performed a new play, 'Fighting the Waves', based upon the archive material held within the Lyric Theatre Archive, of the Hardiman Library.

Caroline Lynch, playwright, as Mary O'Malley
The play written and starring Caroline Lynch, depicted the life of Mary O'Malley as she dedicated her life to establishing a new theatre in Belfast, during a volatile time in the backdrop to growing social unrest and the eventual conflict of 'The Troubles. The play explores this birth of a new theatre that was hugely influenced by the writing of W.B. Yeats. The play was researched by Barry Houlihan, Archivist at the Hardiman Library and organised by Mary McPartlann, with support from the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance.

The Lyric Theatre archive contains a detailed account of the growth and development of the theatre and its founding director, Mary O’Malley. The play explored the huge range of records kept by O'Malley in the Lyric archive and presented a live event that drew the audience into the Yeats-inspired Belfast and world of Mary O’Malley and the birth of a new theatre across a time of immense social, political and artistic change.

This collaboration is a unique occasion for the student actors from Galway and Belfast to meet and work together on a project whose central character was full of determination and belief in the power of theatre to bring individuals together and turn them into a group whose power is greater than the sum of its parts. By exploring the Lyric Theatre archive of the James Hardiman Library, the story of Mary O’Malley’s journey and the history of Yeats’ work in Northern Ireland reached new audiences in this the 150th anniversary of the birth of W.B. Yeats.
Cast members in 'Fighting the Waves'
The play was presented to a packed Cube at the Bailey Allen Hall on 19th November and was also presented at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast.

It is in the O’Malley family home in Belfast that Mary established the Lyric Players. Along with a group of friends and family, O’Malley directed, designed and produced an extraordinary volume of work, beginning in 1951, notably the plays of W.B. Yeats and leading European playwrights which were not often staged in Ireland at the time. The first season in 1951 consisted of three plays, including At the Hawk’s Well by W.B. Yeats. Yeats was a foundational, constant presence and influence on O’Malley and the endeavours of the Lyric Players and the Lyric Theatre, from their journey of amateur to professional and forging ahead to become a ‘National’ theatre for Northern Ireland.
Mary O'Malley pictured at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast.
 (Lyric Theatre Archive, James Hardiman Library)

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