Lyric Drama Studio


Drama Studio


Over recent years I’ve had the good fortune to collaborate with the trailblazing Creative Learning department at the Lyric Belfast on a range of projects. Head of Creative Learning, Philip Crawford, oversees and directs a diverse programme of productions and initiatives aimed at supporting and engaging young actors and audiences across the province. Here are some selections drawn from some recent scores and soundscapes I’ve produced for this brilliant department. 


You can read more here about my work on the phenomenally successful touring production, Blackout. Bringing together newly trained actors embarking on early career roles, with young offenders from Hydebank Wood College, it’s a truly life-changing project for the individuals who participate. Schools across Northern Ireland are queuing up to receive the production and participate in the wrap-around workshops.


The Lyric’s flagship Drama Studio course fills a much needed training gap in a region where there are no drama schools. The scheme allows 18-25 year olds who are considering a career in acting to explore more fully the skills and commitment required in order to progress to professional training. I’ve worked as composer and sound designer for a number of Drama Studio productions and have been very grateful for the opportunities they have presented me with which to explore interesting musical landscapes and sound worlds. Staged in the wonderful Naughton Studio at the Lyric, I’ve also been able to design some exciting and unusual sound installations.

For the 2019 Drama Studio production of this 1940s classic, we were thrilled to collaborate with internationally renowned Ulster fiddle maker and player Geordie McAcdam. Geordie’s input was invaluable when it came to accurately portraying the ‘Old Timey’ Appalachian musical landscape that threads a musical trail through this dark and disturbing story of witchcraft and prejudice in the Rocky Mountains.

Chris Warner’s thunderous sound effects beam down on the audience seated around the thrust stage. The controlled echo during the witch scenes is very atmospheric
— Review, 'Alan in Belfast'

For the powerful revival scene towards the end of the play I wanted to have a reed organ playing live onstage. Stuart Marhsall’s design incorporated a great looking reed organ shell, but it wasn’t playable. I managed to trace a similar working organ and set about recording all the hymns that feature diagetically in the scene, together with some other experimental effects. Once recorded, I was able to play the recordings back through a couple of Minirigs hidden inside the organ shell. I also worked with Drama Studio alumni Luke Bannon to record a tool-kit of authentic violin riffs, noises and effects. The rest of the soundscapes came from some recordings I made of a rusty old autoharp and several Remo Spring Drums. 



Musicians: Chas Hutchings - Cornet, Trumpet, Tuba; Anne Templer - Percussion

Chris Warner’s sound design provides scenes with the sound of echoey hospital corridors, swanky parties and battle fields: one of the most sensitive and effective soundtracks I’ve heard
— Review, 'Alan in Beflast'

Part of the Lyric’s contribution to the First World War centenary included the Drama Studio production of Howard Brenton’s Dr Scroggy’s War. Commissioned by Shakespeare’s Globe and first performed in 2014, it shines a spotlight on the pioneering work of Harold Gillies in the field of plastic surgery. I was keen to find a new perspective on the traditional musical material often presented in War narratives from this period. This led me to explore a range of broken and fractured soundscapes in which militaristic and popular musical forms are broken apart and reconstructed.


Helen Edmundson’s play, first produced in 2012 by the Royal Shakespeare Company, takes as it’s subject the life of Juana Inés de la Cruz and formed part of the Lyric Belfast’s 2017 season. With core themes concerning feminism and speaking truth to power in Latin America, my score and sound design fuses dramatic and sensuous Spanish guitar idioms with plainchant taken from the appropriate religious ‘Hours’ for each moment of the drama.

Musicians: Mark Rose - Guitar, Charne Rochford - Vocals