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Art imitates life for Branagh's former Billy Plays co-star in Derry Girls

Original Billy cast members Jimmy Ellis and Tracey Lynch at opening of Love Billy at the Lyric Theatre Belfast in 2013. Picture by Neil Harrison

IT'S been a case of art imitating life for Derry Girls' terrifying chippy owner Fionnaula, portrayed by Tracey Lynch in the Channel 4 comedy.

As a young actress she played Kenneth Branagh's younger sister Ann Martin in the Billy Plays, whose mother, Frances Branagh, "worked in a chip shop", as her son told the press yesterday ahead of his Freedom of Belfast investiture.

Tracey Lynch was the only cast member to reprise their role in a fifth instalment of the `Irish triology', `Love, Billy' at the Lyric Theatre in 2013.

She had last played the role as a 10 year-old.

Commissioned by the Lyric, Liverpudlian Joe McGann stepped into the shoes of Sir Kenneth to lead the cast as the estranged son, Billy Martin, who returns to Belfast after 25 years to a city that he hardly recognises and family grudges to resolve.

In Derry Girls, Lynch has established herself in the fine comic creation of the aggressive chip shop owner who provides Friday night sustenance for the main characters.

She recently appeared alongside Father Ted star Ardal O'Hanlon in Channel 4 comedy `London Irish' about a hard-drinking group of Northern Ireland friends living in London.

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