Review: Lyric Theatre's first foray into live online performance a wondrous hybrid

Some of those behind the Lyric Theatre's New Speak: Re-Imagined, back: Rebecca Mairs, Lata Sharma, Dominic Montague, Jude Quinn and Jimmy Fay; front, Zara Janahi, Emily Foran, Clare Montgomery, Annika Graham, Gemma Mae Halligan and Bronagh McFeely
Jane Hardy


New Speak: Re-Imagined

Lyric Theatre


IN THE living-room stalls, waiting for The Lyric Theatre's first pandemic-era live arts show online, you couldn't help wondering how it would measure up to a live performance. After all, size is important and this is a different scale of show, accessed via the PC screen.

I needn't have worried, in New Speak: Re-Imagined Jimmy Fay and his team have produced something hilarious, uplifting, and just what we need right now.

For me, the stand-out act in the first Friday night streamed broadcast was The Great British Lockdown. This cod-reality TV documentary on life with Graham, Rebecca and small child surviving the coronavirus era in their arty house ticked every satirical box and should be on Channel 4 this week.

An earnest voiceover gave way to scenes of him pulling her along on the two-metre blue rope lead, they coralled their toddler son in his bedroom and sent up food from the ground floor. They don't seem to have realised you don't socially distant your household. Including the cats, Beyonce and Tiggers, who naturally kept returning to the house. Of course, our concerned couple just kept washing their paws.

More seriously, but equally impressively, contemporary dancer Zara Janahi from Ajendance took on the climate change issue like a Greta Thunberg on barre. Dressed in white then black, to show the problematic life and death issues, she moved exquisitely to remind us that though the planet is now healing thanks to our changed lifestyles, things may get worse again. Gaia correctly said "I need you more than you need me."

Then – and this broadcast (available via was nothing if not eclectic – we had some music, lovely songs for tough times performed by Katie Richardson, their sound slightly late 70s, protest-ish, and the sort of thing you could hum afterwards. Patrick McBrearty performed Dominic Montague's compelling piece, Real Talk, and Lata Sharma gave us a sense of Northern Ireland's creative diversity with Sausage Sodas and Onion Bhagees.

So can online arts equal live performance with fellow humans on a stage? I think this is a wondrous hybrid, something we'll get into by and by as our cultural responses change during and, we hope, post-coronavirus. What is important is that this connected us with people and what we most miss is the contact with family, friends old and new – people. I'm looking forward to the Lyric's offering this Friday – though I need a bigger PC.

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