When describing the Lyric to others, I usually mention first off that it provides a tucked-away, and therefore creatively-free space for small theatre companies to experiment with new works of performance and to ‘try them out’ on Bridport’s open, receptive, but also critically astute audience. And then, off they go to Edinburgh festival or wherever taking a little bit of the Lyric with them out into the world.
I then mention how unique the Lyric theatre is as an early-Georgian building with a diverse history of public uses over 275 years including church, political assembly, cinema, dance school and now theatre and remarkably also part of a trio of other fine Georgian buildings, the Literary and Scientific Institute and the Chapel in the Garden, all still in public use – Bridport’s own ‘three graces’.
As a film fan, the event I’d highlight is a screening of Buster Keaton’s, The General, a silent film from the 20’s shown with live musical accompaniment by a group of local musicians to a packed audience. It brought cinema back home to Bridport’s first cinema, the Electric Palace, as the Lyric was known in the early part of the 20th century. Taking inspiration from this event, Bridport’s annual film festival have also programmed a further silent screening in the 2020 festival.