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'Brendan At the Chelsea' Brings Dunbar Back To Lyric
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RENOWNED Ulster actor Adrian Dunbar makes a return to the Lyric Theatre directing and playing Irish National Treasure Brendan Behan in Brendan at the Chelsea. The play will open the Naughton Studio, a flexible performance space that accommodates up to 172 audience members within the producing theatre. Written by Behan’s niece Janet, Brendan at the Chelsea runs from Saturday 21 May and runs until 19 June.

Adrian, who played at the old Lyric Theatre in Conversations on a Homecoming, has also acted for The Abbey, Almeida, the Royal Court, the Young Vic and the Royal Shakespeare Company. He has established a successful acting career on TV and in film, notably in classic Irish films such as Hear My Song, for which he was nominated for a BAFTA for co-writing, My Left Foot, The Crying Game and most recently in the ITV movie drama Mo, in which he played David Trimble against Julie Walters as Mo Mowlam.

Adrian leads a cast of five in Brendan at the Chelsea featuring Renée Castle, Pauline Hutton, Richard Orr and Chris Robinson. Pauline and Richard return to the Lyric: Pauline appeared in The Cavalcaders while Richard has appeared in over 20 productions at the Lyric in as many years. Renée and Chris both make their Lyric Theatre debut. Renée is a renowned stage actress in her native Canada and London-based Chris, originally from Carrickfergus, who trained at Bretton Hall, returns home especially to perform in the play.

Adrian Dunbar outside the new Lyric Theatre in Belfast. (Photo by Neil Harrison).

Immortalised in pop culture by The Pogues and Thin Lizzy to name a few over recent decades, Brendan’s niece Janet Behan has now paid tribute to her uncle through her own play. Janet commented: “In writing this play, my intention has been to get under the skin of the ordinary, albeit hugely talented, human being who rolled out of bed in the morning, ate, wrote, made love, had dreams, ambitions, nightmares, who loved life with a passion, had so much to live for and spent a fair proportion of most days killing himself all the same. That’s the man I’ve tried to find; he won’t be everybody’s Brendan, but he’s mine.”

Brendan at the Chelsea is a warm and funny play set in the 1960s when the notorious Brendan Behan absconded from Ireland to New York and set up residence in the bohemian Chelsea Hotel where his neighbours included Arthur Miller, Bob Dylan and other artists. He’s drunk, broke, hung over and way past the delivery date of his latest book; then a wire arrives from Dublin with the kind of news that’s guaranteed to put his blood pressure through the roof.

Richard Croxford, the Lyric Theatre’s Artistic Director commented: “We are delighted that Adrian Dunbar will open the Naughton Studio directing and playing Behan in Brendan at the Chelsea. This will mark the start of a dynamic programme of work for the space – work that will enable us to trial new writing, develop new ways of creating theatre and help build the skills of our local actors.”

Gilly Campbell, Drama and Dance Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: “The Lyric has provided an outstanding cultural programme over the past 60 years, generating some of the most ground breaking and innovative theatre.  It looks like that trend is set to continue in the new theatre with a very exciting season programme planned for the year ahead. We wish the Lyric every success and look forward to experiencing some of the best theatre Northern Ireland has to offer.”