Belfast Telegraph

Watch: Comedy duo Grimes and McKee on writing a Christmas play for grown-ups


Comic double act and writers Grimes and McKee are back at the Lyric Theatre with another Christmas special.

Directed by Frankie McCafferty, Driving Home for Christmas sees Conor Grimes star as brother and sister Pat and Paddy, who are the proprietors of the Dander Inn, while Alan McKee takes on the role of Frank Diamond - one quarter of mid-Ulster's second-best ABBA tribute band.

It's Christmas Eve and a once-in-a-century snowstorm rages over the country. Various travellers take refuge in the Dander Inn pub as the road becomes impassable and all communication with the outside world has been cut off by the storm.

It soon becomes clear that they will have to camp out in the pub until they can be rescued. Nobody wants to be there, but they take solace in the fact that there are worse places to spend the night than a pub aren't there?

Alan McKee (Frank) _ Credit Chris Heaney.jpg
Alan McKee as Frank

"The Grimes and McKee Christmas has become a bit of a tradition," says Grimes.

"It's now 20 years since we did our first Christmas show in Belfast. That was called Plucked and Stuffed and it was also in the Lyric Theatre, although we've been other places since."

The pair say that while theatres across the province are hiving with festive dramatics, there's one thing that sets theirs apart.

"It's a Christmas show we invented for a new market, which was a Christmas play for grown-ups. We recognised a gap in the market because all the other shows were for children," says Grimes.

"You know what you're getting when you come to our show. We try and write so that the audience from here will identify with it. In ways, it's their lives. That's what we try to do."

Speaking about their favourite festive traditions, McKee says it's about "presence, not presents".

"It's getting people back home from from far flung places and getting everybody round a table and as, Peter Kay says, having to bring in the dining room chairs from across the road," he said.

"We have built up a tradition in our house of on Christmas Eve, the door's open. Friends, family and neighbours all come in for a drink and it's always good craic."

Meanwhile, it's all about December 26 for the Grimes family.

Conor Grimes as Pat and Paddy
Conor Grimes as Pat and Paddy
Alan McKee as Frank

"I have three boys and I come from a large family of brothers and sisters and we have a big party on Boxing Day, where the entire clan gathers at my mum and dad's house in Donaghmore," said the writer. "That's easily my favourite thing about Christmas."

Driving Home for Christmas runs at Lyric Theatre Belfast from November 19 - January 4. Tickets are now available, starting from £12 at www.lyrictheatre.co.uk or 028 9038 1081

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