My Big Fat Belfast Christmas is BACK at the Theatre at The Mill in Newtownabbey this Christmas from now until New Year’s Eve, with a first-class cast and updated antics – but with the same soul that won plenty of hearts since it was first performed in 2015.
Making its debut 4 years ago at the same venue, actresses and writers Caroline Curran and Julie Maxwell curated the Christmas comedy about Ma (Abigail McGibbon), Da (James Doran), sisters Mags (Caroline Curran) and Mary (originally played by Julie Maxwell, this year by Bernadette Brown) and Mary’s fiancé Yousef (Matthew Sharpe). The scene is set on Christmas Eve and Ma has more than just a turkey in the oven. Da has a secret of his own as brown enveloped bills continue to mount. Oblivious Mags pursues her life as an ‘entremanure’ Instagram influencer / blogger / blagger, whilst her arch-enemy and high-flying Cosmopolitan sister Mary is home for the holidays with her multi-talented dancer / bin man / rap artist fiancé – Yousef. Of course, all that is missing from the table is dear Granny Lillian. A laugh-a-minute production, new quips featured the introduction of inopportune A.I Alexa, Brexit banter and a rambunctious rap from cockney and cocky fiancé Yosef about our inactive MLAs and certain wood-pellet burning scandals.
Now in 2019, it is a bittersweet performance as co-writer Julie Maxwell passed away suddenly in August. However, she did finish the freshened-up rendition of the original play with Curran before her untimely passing. It is this that helps to make this year’s performance so special – of course the play maintains its essence and message of the importance of family and dealing with grief at Christmas time. Yet, it is also an insight into the brilliant wit, heart and comedy genius that Julie and Caroline honed through their years of friendship and working together.
Speaking to journalist Gail Bell at The Irish News in November, co-writer Caroline Curran said ‘I think our writing skills had improved over the past few years, so we thought we would polish it up a bit and give the show a make-over for 2019.’
The ‘polish’ of this year’s performance is particularly shiny – a succinct and smart script coupled with the cast’s undeniable charisma makes for a thoroughly enjoyable experience and one that all involved – from humble start to finish – should be proud of.
The play without its pathos is a fitting tribute to the life of Julie Maxwell – fun, full of heart and whether it’s performed in 2015 or 2019, a timeless classic.
Tickets start at £21 for standard and are available to purchase via https://theatreatthemill.ticketsolve.com/shows/873611466/events/129092346
Author: Anna Louise Crockard