A WELL-known TV actor will step into the shoes of a Belfast-born movie star at the Lyric in May as the Billy Plays take to the stage once again.
Popular television and theatre actor Joe McGann is preparing to take on a role made famous by Sir Kenneth Branagh as he leads the cast of Love, Billy – the fifth instalment of the successful series of plays.
First televised by the BBC in the 1980s, as part of the Play for Today series, the Billy plays launched the career of Branagh and made a huge impact across the island of Ireland and the UK.
Love, Billy, which has its world premiere at the Lyric and was written by Graham Reid, sees Billy Martin returning to Belfast after 25 years, having left mysteriously without telling anyone. He comes back to a city that he hardly recognises and with family grudges to resolve.
Joe, whose brother Paul was in the same class at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London as Branagh, said he will spend time in Belfast to prepare for the role. “I shall come to Belfast before the start of rehearsals because I want to do some research on the character and the city as I think it definitely helps with a role like this,” he said.
“I recognise the fact that the Billy plays were very big locally and I hope to rise to the challenge. I know the writer, Graham Reid and I have worked with Jimmy Ellis who was in the original plays. I love Belfast and have a lot of friends who live locally. I’m also really looking forward to working in the new theatre as I remember the old Lyric well.”
Playwright Reid said he is glad to have been commissioned to write the new instalment. “I’m looking forward to working at the new Lyric and am grateful to the theatre for giving me the opportunity to revisit the Martin family,” he said.
“The real challenge of the writing has been to pick up the family story 25 years on, but this time for stage rather than screen.”
Love, Billy runs on the Danske Bank Stage from May 1 to 25. For more information visit www.lyrictheatre.co.uk.