Belfast Telegraph

Monday 24 November 2014

It's Curtain up for Christmas

Conor Grimes and Alan McKee
Conor Grimes and Alan McKee

It might seem a little early to be using the ‘C-word’, but the curtain is rising on Christmas shows all over the place next week — theatres around the province are digging out those boxes of tinsel and Santa suits for their festive entertainment.

The Lyric Theatre is putting up its Christmas tree at the Elmwood Hall, as building work continues in Ridgeway Street.

It’s offering up a double bill of fun, with Paul Boyd’s musical story The Tale of the Beauty and the Tail of the Beast, while the grown-ups can grapple over tickets for Howl!

Described as an untamed adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood for grown-ups, Howl! is this year’s Christmas treat from duo Conor Grimes and Alan McKee (pictured).

The story is simple. When a group of theatre professionals decide to adapt the classic fairytale for their Christmas show, it’s agreed it has West End written all over it. The line-up includes a maniacal, recovering addict director, a vain minor soap star, a predatory former TV weather girl, a composer who can’t read music and a rookie actress straight out of drama school — so what could possibly go wrong?

The cast includes Maria Connolly, Doireann McKenna and Ciaran Nolan. Howl! opens on Tuesday.

Playwright Damian Gorman has been busy this year, with his latest production, Eat, Sleep, Party having just finished its run at the Old Museum Arts Centre in Belfast. Gorman has also been working with the good people of Ballycastle to create a brand new play about Christmas.

Set in Ballycastle, Stars tells of the birth of a child which brings joy to all. One of the special things about the production is its literal demonstration of community spirit, as the play takes place in two venues: Cross & Passion College and across the road in Ballycastle High School.

The cast is a combination of professional actors and local people, led by Conleth Hill. He’s joined by Gordon Fulton, Abigail McGibbon and Olivia Nash in what I predict will be the most memorable show this Christmas. There will be just seven performances, the first on December 1. To enquire about tickets, ring the box office in Ballycastle on 07591 887 217.

Back to the present, and a hearty congratulations to Bruiser’s artistic director Lisa May, who has just picked up a Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year award.

And, as the chief executive of the Grand Opera House, John Botteley, packs his trunk and says goodbye to the Belfast circus, news comes of his replacement.

Michael Ockwell comes with a wealth of theatre experience, most recently as managing director of HQ Theatres. He will take up his new position early next year, and is looking forward to his new job.

But in the meantime we wish John well for the future.

grania.mcfadden@ntlworld.com

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