Arts

Lockdown diary: The Lyric Theatre's Jimmy Fay on life in the coronavirus crisis

We ask people how they are coping in the coronavirus crisis. This week, Jimmy Fay (50), executive and artistic producer of the Lyric Theatre, Belfast

Dubliner Jimmy Fay in the Lyric Theatre, which is now closed but which he says is now looking at the possibility of putting productions online. For more info see lyrictheatre.co.uk. Picture by Mark Marlow
Jane Hardy

How have you reacted to the crisis?

Once the south made a decision to go into lockdown I feel the north should have done the same thing. In fairness to the politicians, they're now appreciating the seriousness of this. Westmister may be crap but Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill are on it, thank God. That's who we should be watching,

How has it affected you professionally?

At the Lyric, we had to make a decision to shut the theatre. We weren't told what to do but audiences were ahead of us as they'd stopped booking tickets. Martin Lynch's company were opening In the Name of the Son, about Gerry Conlon, and Bruiser's production of 1984 was in rehearsal. Last Monday we made the call. I now feel nothing is safe about our autumn schedules.

What about personally?

I was on a trip to New York and Washington two weeks ago. We were negotiating a deal to take our production of Good Vibrations there, and it was going brilliantly – it's a really big thing. Suddenly the Irish and British embassies were cancelling invitations. On my return to Belfast I had to completely self-isolate. It's very odd. We have a 13-year-old boy and I am home schooling him. I am also cooking a lot as I find that relaxing, often with a glass of wine.

What's been the worst aspect?

The deaths, obviously. My great-aunt, Eileen O'Neill Fay, was the third person to die from this in Ireland. She was an older lady, 88, but very active. It's sad.

:: What's the immediate plan for the Lyric?

We need not to rush into things. The main thing is to take care of the money, to put people on a financial even keel with clear, precise direction. We need also to look at the theatre's online presence but if this lasts a long time, that might peter out. The Lyric Theatre now goes online now. We are working on a project called New Speak and we are hoping to stream some of our previous productions. We have Good Vibrations and the Jaipur literary festival to consider. There may be a way of doing these... I hope so.

Is there anything positive in coronavirus?

You've got to see the positives. People are communicating with each other more than ever. Communication is vital. Every morning at 10am I have a virtual meeting with all my staff. I would prefer to see them face to face but things are going to change.

What helps you get through the day (and night)?

The Sopranos, which I'd never seen, on Netflix. Also, it is heartening to see everybody now galvanised. At the theatre, we'll need an online presence, streaming shows or work work in progress.

:: lyrictheatre.co.uk

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