Musicals, plays, concerts: Belfast’s Grand Opera House abounds in culture

by Sean Hillen

Over the next few weeks, following its recent success with the production ‘Art,’ Belfast’s historic Grand Opera House continues its impressive array of shows, ranging from musicals and movie screenings to plays and concerts.

‘Art,’ which has attracted many plaudits over the last twenty years – and more than 200 million dollars in tickets sales for playwright and social satirist Yasmina Reza – for its insightful musings on the real nature of friendship, continued its lasting popularity in Belfast recently with well-known British performers, Denis Lawson, Nigel Havers and the comical Stephen Tompkinson bringing a refreshing sense of amusement to the proceedings. It is based on an Old Vic Production by Matthew Warchus presented by David Pugh and Dafydd Rogers.

Art at Belfast Grand Opera, play called art

Photos by Matt Crockett

The title of this fast-moving 90-minute play is somewhat misleading insofar as, while indeed a piece of ‘white art’ is the focus of attention, it is merely an allusion to a grander question: what is the meaning of friendship and what does it entail?

On a minimalist stage, the three characters, having known each other for a long time, suddenly face up to, and must deal with, some perplexing truths about each other’s personalities that suddenly surface after they voice divergent views about an expensive piece of art one of them has purchased. Highlight of the show is an exasperated and convoluted soliloquy by Tompkinson in his role as the hapless Yvan about the frustrating familial intricacies linked to his upcoming marriage. The show is directed by Ellie Jones and translated from the French original by Christopher Hampton, with stage design by Mark Thompson.

Art by Yasmina Reza, Old Vic production of Art

Among other upcoming shows at the Grand Opera House are ‘Sing-a-Long-a Beauty and the Beast,’ a screening of Disney’s brand new adaptation of the iconic fairy tale, with on-screen lyrics so everyone can join in; and a concert by leading Irish singer, Mary Black, highlighting songs by musician-lyricist Jimmy McCarthy, from ‘No Frontiers’ to ‘Katie’ to ‘Bright Blue Rose.’ Black has released 11 studio albums all of which have achieved platinum sales status.

For something entirely different, the classic, century-old Belfast venue will also host the Northern Ballet’s production of ‘Jane Eyre.’ For added interest, there will be a free pre-show talk on Thursday, 5 April.

theater in Belfast, Sing-a-Long-a Beauty and the Beast, Mary Black in Belfast,

Musicals feature regularly in Grand Opera House entertainment and upcoming ones reflect an impressive variety, including ‘42nd Street’ presented by Belfast’s St. Agnes’ Choral Society and ‘Titanic the Musical,’ direct from London to the city where the world’s most legendary ship was built. The latter focuses on the hopes, dreams and aspirations of real people who were aboard the ill-fated cruise liner and is based on music and lyrics by Maury Yeston and a book written by Peter Stone.

Admirably, the Grand Opera House has been very sensitive to the needs of the elderly, a reflection of this being its ongoing series: ‘Dementia Friendly Film Screenings.’ One such offering in mid-April is ‘The Ladykillers,’ starring Alec Guinesss and Peter Sellers, about a group of bank robbers who pose as a string quintet and take rooms at the home of amiable Mrs. Wilberforce, with most surprising results. As part of its service, the Grand Opera House will offer free tea, coffee and biscuits to guests 30 minutes before the movie begins, giving families and carers the opportunity to socialize with each other.

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