Companies

Ulster Group Theatre

OVERVIEW

  • Description

    The Ulster Group Theatre was founded in 1940 when three amateur groups, the Ulster Theatre, the Northern Irish Players, and the Jewish Institute Dramatic Society, came together to individually stage a season of plays at Belfast’s Ulster Minor Hall under the collective umbrella title, the Ulster Group Theatre. This proved successful, and it was decided to establish an amalgamated company with a collective identity, the Ulster Theatre alone withdrawing.

    The Ulster Group Theatre proper thereby began in September 1940, and would endure for some 20 years. The Minor Hall venue at Bedford Street rapidly became known as the Group Theatre, and this tiny space became Northern Ireland’s home of new writing in the mid-twentieth century, with programmes combining new work with classics and international drama. Writers strongly associated with the company included St. John Ervine, George Shiels, and Joseph Tomelty, while the Group also premiered work by Louis MacNeice, John Murphy, and Brian Friel. The company was praised for its naturalistic acting style, and some of its performers went on to become well-known figures in Northern Ireland and beyond.

    By the late 1950s, however, the company faced considerable funding difficulties, as well as the challenge of the new television medium. A highly controversial decision by the company’s board to withdraw a play by Sam Thompson, ‘Over the Bridge’, made front page news and ultimately triggered the collapse of the Group company. Many long-standing members left, and the close repertory ensemble system effectively ended.

    The theatre building was subsequently offered to comedian and actor James Young, who together with Jack Hudson rapidly made it the new ‘Home of Ulster Comedy’. For the next decade, the Group saw premieres of long-running and hugely popular comedies by John McDonnell, as well as solo shows by Young himself.

  • Address

    Group Theatre, Bedford Street, Belfast, Antrim

NEW IRISH PLAYS PRODUCED BY ULSTER GROUP THEATRE

Play Title Playwright
A Lock of the General's Hair Jack Loudan
A Saint of Little Consequence John Crilley
A Title for Buxey Cecil Cree
All Souls' Night Joseph Tomelty
April in Assagh Joseph Tomelty
Arty J.R. Mageean Ruddick Millar
Ballyfarland's Festival St. John Greer Ervine
Bannister's Cafe Harry Sinton Gibson
Borderwine George Shiels
Danger, Men Working John D. Stewart
Diana C.K. Munro
Dust Under Our Feet Michael J. Murphy (2)
Fiddler's Folly Lynn Doyle
Henry Joy McCracken Jack Loudan
Highly Efficient Patricia O'Connor
Idolatry at Innishargie Joseph Tomelty
Ill Fares the Land Patrick J. McLoughlin
In Donegall Square Jack Loudan Phillip Stuart
Is the Priest at Home? Joseph Tomelty
Legacy of Delight Hugh Quinn
Martha St. John Greer Ervine
Master Adams Patricia O'Connor
Men on the Wall Michael J. Murphy (2)
Mountain Post George Shiels
Mrs. Martin's Man John Boyd St. John Greer Ervine
My Brother Tom St. John Greer Ervine
Poor Errand Joseph Tomelty
Right Again Barnum Joseph Tomelty
Select Vestry Patricia O'Connor
Signs and Wonders Janet McNeill
Stars of Brickfield Street John Coulter
Story For Today Jack Loudan
That Woman At Rathard Sam Hanna Bell
The Bonefire Gerard McLarnon
The Country Boy John Murphy (2)
The Curse of the Lone Tree M. Eamon Dubhagan
The Delph Dog Larry Morrow
The Doubtful Paradise Brian Friel
The Farmer Wants a Wife Patricia O'Connor
The House of Mallon Patrick Riddell
The House That Jack Built Cecil Cree
The Mustard Seed Joan Sadler
The Old Broom George Shiels
The Randy Dandy Stewart Love
The Season's Greetings Hebe Elsna
The Sparrow's Fall Patricia O'Connor
The Square Peg Harry Sinton Gibson
Traitors in Our Way Louis MacNeice
Voice Out of Rama Patricia O'Connor
What's Bred in the Bone Ruddick Millar
Who Saw Her Die? Patricia O'Connor