BBC and the Lyric Theatre produce new theatrical isolation dramas with top Northern Ireland talent

Drama lovers all over the land have something to celebrate. As part of BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine, which aims to continue to bring culture into the homes of audiences during lockdown, BBC Arts, the Lyric Theatre, BBC Northern Ireland – with support from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland – are collaborating on some new theatre commissions from Northern Ireland.

These six new short drama commissions from some of Northern Ireland’s biggest names in writing and acting – including Lisa McGee (Derry Girls) and Conleth Hill (Game of Thrones) –  will explore the positive and negative aspects of social isolation and lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Under the title Splendid Isolation: Lockdown Drama, the five minute theatrical pieces, produced by some of Northern Ireland’s premier theatre talent, will be collated and broadcast on BBC Two Northern Ireland in June and made available afterwards on BBC Four and BBC iPlayer.

The project is part of a wider national collaboration between BBC Arts, theatres and Arts Councils in each nation in this challenging time for the creative sector. (Further information can be found here).

The films have been written by top writers including Lisa McGee (Derry Girls), Owen McCafferty, (Ordinary Love, The Absence of Women), David Ireland (Cyprus Avenue), Abbie Spallen (Pumpgirl ), Sarah Gordon (Sinkhole in Guatemala) and Stacey Gregg (Scorch).

Derry Girls writer Lisa McGee says: “I’m thrilled to be working with the Lyric and the BBC on this ambitious project and to be collaborating with such exciting Northern Irish talent”.

They will be directed by Conleth Hill (Game of Thrones), Des Kennedy (Harry Potter & The Cursed Child/Good Vibrations),  Emma Jordan (Artistic Director, Prime Cut Productions),  Jimmy Fay, (Exec Producer, Lyric Theatre) and Cathy Brady, (Wildfire/ Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope) and Damian McCann.

Actors featuring in the dramas, which will be shot in accordance with social distancing guidelines, include Anthony Boyle, who won an Olivier Award for his performance as ‘Scorpius’ in Harry Potter & The Cursed Child in the West End and later on BroadwayStella McCusker (Game of Thrones, Ordinary Love) and Kerri Quinn (Coronation Street, Come Home). Sarah Gordon, Abigail McGibbon and David Pearse (Vikings, Fifty Dead Men Walking) also feature.

Stephen James Yeoman, Commissioning Executive, BBC Arts says: “For the time being the theatre curtains remain down but the talent, whether on stage or behind the scenes, are no less creative. Unsurprisingly one of the things that has figuratively brought us together while being apart is the world-class theatre brought to our living rooms.  That is why BBC Arts is working with a host of theatre companies in all four nations of the UK, commissioning new and thought-provoking work to keep audiences thinking.”

Paul McClean, Executive Producer, Arts, Music & Learning, BBC NI says; “We are delighted to be able to partner with the award winning Lyric Theatre to help fill the void for audiences missing their theatres. To be able to harness the fantastic creative talent we have on our doorstep to reflect the lockdown stories of Northern Ireland is truly exciting. I would also like to extend my thanks to Stephen James-Yeoman for instigating this initiative and to the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for their support.”

Jimmy Fay, Executive Producer at the Lyric Theatre says: “I genuinely welcome this fantastic opportunity to work with BBC Arts and BBC NI on ‘Splendid Isolation’. All of the 20 artists involved have a connection to the Lyric Theatre and have responded to our invitation to create for this project with imaginative, versatile and provocative pieces. We are also delighted that some of our very best theatre directors like Emma Jordan and Des Kennedy are getting their TV directorial debut with this wonderful partnership. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on theatres across the country, forcing the closure of all of them for the foreseeable future. For over 50 years the Lyric has never closed its doors before now, but as a production company, we are kept going with our Lyric Theatre Online programme, which is something we hope to continue to build as we navigate this new normal and face the ongoing challenges for our theatres.”

Noirin McKinney, Director, Arts Council of Northern Ireland says: “This initiative is supported by Arts Council National Lottery funding and provides a great opportunity to support the production and curation of brand new digital arts content from these shores. This project is offering writers, actors, producers and directors a lifeline in difficult times when all other work has been cancelled. Splendid Isolation is a great example of how the arts can respond and reflect our everyday experiences through marvellous storytelling, and through the collaboration of talented artists who are, after all, the life blood of our creative industries.”

This initiative is supported by Arts Council of Northern Ireland National Lottery Funding.

Splendid Isolation: Lockdown Drama will broadcast on BBC Two Northern Ireland, 10pm on Thursday 25 June.

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