Liam Neeson visits Lyric Theatre

Liam Neeson visits Lyric Theatre

Hollywood star Liam Neeson has returned to the Lyric Theatre to meet the cast of Philadelphia, Here I Come!

The 61-year-old visited the south Belfast venue on Friday, after rehearsals began this week for a new production of the play in which he starred in 1976.

The star, who is the theatre's Patron, chatted to up-and-coming young actor, Gavin Drea, who has revived the part Neeson played nearly 40 years ago as Gar Private.

He also met with Lyric stalwart Stella McCusker with whom he acted and who is also in the forthcoming play.

Philadelphia, Here I Come! is one of Brian Friel's most famous plays and is being revived at the Lyric to celebrate the Irish playwright's 85th birthday in 2014.

Set in the fictional town of Ballybeg in Co Donegal, it is a portrait of a young man torn between his small-town home in Ireland and the bright lights of America. Friel's big trick is to show the two sides of the 25-year-old - public Gar and private Gar - as he faces his dilemma.

Dublin actor Peter Coonan best known for his role as Fran in RTÉ series Love/Hate, plays Gar Public opposite Gavin Drea as Gar Private, who also starred in Love/Hate.

They head up a 12-strong cast. The play is due to open on 6 February and will run until 8 March.

Director Andrew Flynn, who last worked at the Lyric in 2011 when he directed Dockers, said: "It is fitting on the 50th anniversary of this great play that it is being staged at the Lyric. It is always a pleasure to work for such a dynamic and supportive company, but to be directing such a brilliant play with that support is a dream come true."

Last year, Neeson, who starred in the Schindler's List and Taken, made a triumphant return to his hometown of Ballymena when he became the Freeman of the borough.


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