Arts

Caroline Curran and Julie Maxwell transport Jimmy Stewart Christmas classic to Belfast

Caroline Curran, Jimmy Doran and Julie Maxwell star in It's A Wonderful Wee Christmas at Theatre At The Mill, Newtownabbey, December 4-31
Gail Bell

COMEDY writing and acting duo Caroline Curran and Julie Maxwell have teamed up for a bawdy take on the heart-warming Christmas classic It's a Wonderful Life, which combines "all the charm of the original" with Belfast banter.

It's A Wonderful Wee Christmas is the fourth Christmas show penned by and starring the two best pals and they have brought together the familiar team of Paddy Buchanan, Jimmy Doran, Abi McGibbon and director Finn Kennedy to create their unique version of the American fantasy-comedy which starred James Stewart.

Instead of 1940s small-town America, audiences will be transported to modern-day Belfast where an angel is more likely to earn their wings by downing a can of Red Bull than helping out a troubled soul and where ‘Every time a Bell rings’ translates to last orders at the bar...

Central to this seasonal tale is Geordie Bailey – played by Jimmy Doran – the big-hearted manager of the Credit Union, who is the heart of his community, helping cash-strapped customers eke out enough to enjoy Christmas.

But, just like Jimmy Stewart's 'George Bailey' in the iconic film, his ambition to travel has been stymied and he reaches the end of his rope when his office is robbed on Christmas Eve.

Stepping in to save the day is one unorthodox angel, Clara Crackingbody, a potty-mouthed force of nature far removed from the gentle Clarence Peabody.

"Clara descends from ‘upstairs’ to convince Geordie that life is indeed worth living and ‘no man is a failure who has friends'," says Curran, who takes on what is her first 'angelic' role to help save the day – and the Credit Union.

"I only saw the film for the first time in February, but It's A Wonderful Life has always been Julie's favourite film, so we decided to do this year's Christmas show based on it," she says.

"We both grew up with the Credit Union as part of our lives, so this seemed a suitable starting point. It is often the centre of the community and greatly needed by people who find Christmas one big financial struggle."

Co-writer and fellow actor, Julie Maxwell (Mary Bailey) describes the show as a "comedy with heart" – but one which is, equally, "handled with care", particularly when it comes to the more thought-provoking scenes.

"There are lot of emotions to the fore, as in the original film, but we were careful to strike a balance," she says. "There is Belfast humour at the core and we are very good here at laughing at something dark."

:: It's A Wonderful Wee Christmas opens at Theatre At The Mill on December 4 and continues until December 31 (Recommended age 16-plus; more at theatreatthemill.com).

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