The Lyric Theatre has cast Karl Johnson and Ian McElhinney, both notable for their acting careers on stage, film and television, for its world premiere next month in Owen McCafferty's play The Absence of Women.
The play centres on Gerry and Iggy, two labourers from Belfast who are facing the end of their lives talking of the present and thinking of the past. They argue about who has the biggest liver, the names of tube stations and whether they should go back to Belfast or not. This play is about life and its endless possibilities, missed opportunities and how one man’s choice, in one instant, can alter the path of his life forever.
Karl Johnson, who plays Gerry, has just returned to our TV screens in BBC drama Lark Rise to Candleford in which he plays Twister Turrell. He has an extensive and varied career ranging from William Shakespeare's As You Like It at the Old Vic, the hit film Hot Fuzz, to the popular television series Rome. He recently appeared on stage for the National Theatre in The Seafarer by Conor McPherson.
Local favourite Ian McElhinney is no stranger to the Lyric and plays Iggy. His most recent appearance on stage with the Lyric was just last February in Brian Friel’s The Home Place before he reappeared on our television screens last autumn in crime drama Single-Handed as former police inspector Gerry Driscoll. Ian’s other credits include Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet, Michael Collins, Omagh and Closing the Ring for film and Cold Feet and The Tudors for television. As well as being a prominent and respected actor, Ian was nominated for a Tony on Broadway for directing Stones in His Pockets.
Conor McNeill and Alice O’Connell have also been cast in the production. Conor is a young local actor, with a prolific career in local film including roles in Cherrybomb, Five Minutes of Heaven, City of Ember and Fifty Dead Men Walking. Alice is best known for her work on popular television series City of Vice and The Verdict.
Drama fans won’t be disappointed with this poignant play by Owen McCafferty, who also wrote Mojo Mickybo, Scenes from the Big Picture, Antigone, Days of Wine and Roses.
Rachel O’Riordan, who is directing the piece, also directed Much Ado About Nothing, Merry Christmas Betty Ford and The Glass Menagerie for the Lyric. Rachel’s work has been nominated for a TMA Best Director Award, Best Production at the Dublin Fringe Awards and Best Touring Production at the Manchester Evening News Awards.
The Lyric Theatre’s Artistic Director Richard Croxford commented: “We are proud to present the world premiere of this new play by one of our leading playwrights at the Elmwood Hall, and with such a strong cast. Ian McElhinney and Karl Johnson are already a tour de force double act. This play will undoubtedly be a major event in the arts calendar this year and we are very excited that rehearsals have now begun.”
Gilly Campbell, Drama Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: “The variety of work we see on local stages reflects the fact that theatre is an ever-changing artform, reflecting and documenting our imaginations, histories and realities. As the Lyric’s principal funder it is a pleasure to see the work of one of our most acclaimed local writers brought alive by such an impressive cast and crew.”
Produced by the Lyric Theatre, The Absence of Women runs from Monday 8 to Saturday 27 February, except Sunday, at the Elmwood Hall in Belfast. Tickets are priced at £9 for previews and matinees and £11.50 and £10. To book, phone the Lyric Box Office on 028 9038 5673 or book online