IN OUR recent history, theatre has played an important part in shaping our national identity.
While we’re lucky to enjoy a good selection of performances in Dublin, it’s encouraging to see even more options being added to the mix through the new Theatre Express service offered by NI Railways .
The Theatre Express is a package deal that includes rail travel from Dublin to Belfast, tickets to a show at the Grand Opera House, and bed and breakfast at the Europa Hotel in Belfast city centre, for approximately €120pps.
The Grand Opera House has been one of the centres of theatre in Belfast since its construction in 1895, and regularly hosts shows and musicals on tour from London’s West End.
With just over 1,000 seats, it is an intimate venue, so every seat in the house commands a great view of the stage.
Part of the appeal of the new package is its ease of use. The Enterprise service goes direct from Connolly station, and takes around two hours to reach central Belfast.
From there, a 10-minute train journey brings you to Great Victoria Street station, which is right next door to the Europa hotel.
The Europa, which dates back to the early 1970s, is one of the most prestigious hotels in Belfast and has hosted US presidents, politicians, and famous performers through the years.
The hotel is also located right next to the theatre. And so, the walk from the train station, to the hotel, to the theatre takes less than a minute – cumulatively – which makes it very accessible, particularly for anyone bringing along children.
While not included in the package, the Europa’s Causerie restaurant is an ideal spot to eat and provides a two-course pre-theatre menu with tea or coffee for approximately €17 per person.
The Theatre Express package also allows you to choose from a range of trains going back and forth, so it can be a great opportunity to spend a little extra time exploring Belfast, either during the day before the show or on the day following.
With a very successful fortnight run of Evita having just finished, which saw plenty of people coming up from Dublin, NI Railways are planning to extend the offer for the rest of the year, and hopefully for next year as well.
Next up on the schedule – and representing some more excellent-value Theatre Express deals – the Grand Opera House is set to feature some more musical Andrew Lloyd Webber action by staging Cats, from November 4 to November 16 (€120pps), and then moves into panto season with Sleeping Beauty, which runs from November 30 to next January 19 (€110pps).
For further information on these and other offers, see www.translink.co.uk/theatreexpress, or call (0044) 028 9024 2420.