The Ulster Group Theatre was for two decades the focal point of drama in the north of Ireland before its artistic demise following the controversy over the 'censoring' of Sam Thompson's brutal exposé of sectarianism, Over The Bridge.
But before its spectular eclipse, the Group was one of the most vital theatre companies in Ireland. Under the watchful eye of guiding spirit, Harold Goldblatt, the company fostered a whole generation of acting talent: R.H. MacCandless, J.G. Devlin, James Young, Colin Blakely, Elizabeth Begley, James Ellis and Margaret D'Arcy.
While producing a broadbased programme of standards and new World drama, the UGT were equally determined to give the Ulster accent its place on the stage. As a result the Bedford Street-based theatre quickly became 'the home of the Ulster comedy', delighting local audiences with plays speaking directly to, and for, them.
The Group acted as a catalyst for a generation of new northern dramatists to write with vigour and intelligence about their native place. Playwrights such as Joseph Tomelty,Cecil Cree, H.S. Gibson, Jack Loudan, Gerlad McLarnon, Stewart Love and Brian Friel produced their first or very early work for the company. Established writers such as St. John Ervine, George Shiels, and Louis MacNiece also produced original plays for the Belfast audiences.
Produced in association with the Theatre & Performing Arts Archive of the Linen Hall Library, Belfast, Group Plays 1: Seven Comedies is by turns rumbustuous, satirical and farcical with the plays speaking with the peculiar tang of northern speech and looking with a sometimes fons - but never dishonest - gaze at darker northern realities.