Sam loved greatly and was greatly loved – Joan McCready

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Last February the world of theatre said farewell to Belfast writer and actor Sam McCready.

Loved across the globe for his passion and dedication to the theatre, Sam has been greatly missed not only by friends and family, but also by the wider theatrical community and his many fans.

Such was the impact Sam made on theatre in Northern Ireland, it seemed only right that his contribution was remembered as the first anniversary of his passing approached.

To mark the anniversary, the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, which was close to Sam’s heart, is holding a special evening in his honour. Two of his moved well known plays, Percy French and Lady Coole, will also be staged at the Lyric Theatre next month.

Sam’s wife Joan, who will be directing Percy French and starring in Coole Lady, is pleased that the theatre was also keen to remember Sam. “We felt aware that something had to be done over here,” explained Joan. “By chance I was chatting with David Grant, Artistic Director at the Lyric, he said they had also been talking about doing something for Sam. They have done an immense job of pulling it all together.”

On February 10, the Lyric will present ‘The Seven Ages of Sam’, an evening of tributes to the great man. This free event will include scenes from some of his plays, as well as honouring his artwork, teaching, and welcoming many of his friends to the stage. “We are putting together a whole presentation of all the aspects of Sam’s life,” explained Joan. “When our son Richard was giving the eulogy at Sam’s memorial he began by reading the Seven Ages of Man speech from As You Like It and then he broke down Sam’s life into seven ages so that’s what we’re trying to copy, from he was a small boy, through to starting the Lyric, teaching at Orangefield, and moving to America. He did so much and we had to try to pare it down, It will be exciting if emotional, there is no question of that. It is beautiful that he is remembered. Sam loved greatly and was greatly loved.”

From January 22-26, one of Sam’s most well known plays, Percy French, will be staged at the Lyric Theatre, with actor Karl O’Neill taking on the titular role made famous by Sam himself, and Kyle Riley will be bringing the songs back to life. “From the very first day I knew Sam he always sang everywhere he went, and he just loved the songs of Percy French,” explained Joan. “He realised there was much to be found out about the man and that it would make a great show. It is about his life and bringing Percy French back into the consciousness of people. We often end up with the audience singing along at the end of the night.”

As well as directing Percy French, Joan is also starring in the one woman show Coole Lady from February 5-9, which was also penned by Sam. “I have done Coole Lady many times but it is not the same without Sam’s warmth and presence around,” continued Joan. “It is the story of Lady Gregory, including her marriage to Lord Gregory, meeting Yeats and working hard to get his dream of having a theatre of his own. It’s about all the people she met along the way. It’s a tremendous piece and has a little bit of everything in it.”

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