Arts

Caroline Curran is packing a punch with new Christmas play

Carl Frampton, alcohol and community spirit inspire the new Christmas comedy by Belfast actresses and playwrights Caroline Curran and Julie Maxwell. Jenny Lee finds out more

Caroline Curran and Julie Maxwell get in the festive spirit in Last Orders At The Rough Diamond at Newtownabbey's Theatre at the Mill

THEY'VE already tackled slimming and Christmas dinner and now Belfast actresses Caroline Curran and Julie Maxwell are back at Newtonabbey's Theatre at the Mill dramatising another seasonal indulgence – drink.

But rather than simply dealing with partying and hangovers, the actresses, who teamed up again to write their second Christmas show, have put a sense of sentimentality and community spirit at the heart of the action.

The drama centres on sisters Holly (Maxwell) and Ivy (Curran), who own their late dad's former bar, the Rough Diamond, which also used to double as the local boxing club. Faced with eviction from their home and bar the girls, with the help of some regulars, set out on a mission to save it from being bought by a pretentious landowner and turned into posh apartments.

"It's about all these wacky ideas I come up with to raise money to try and save it. Who doesn't love karaoke, fancy dress and a raffle?" laughs Curran.

Meanwhile as local boxer short-legged Stuarty Crampton faces his biggest fight to date, the girls face a dilemma over whether they should place all their hard earned cash and Christmas cheer on Crampton saving them from a yuletide eviction.

Themes of homelessness and remembering loved ones who are no longer with us seep into Last Orders at the Rough Diamond, which Curran describes as "a Christmas comedy with heart".

"Holly is a psychiatric nurse who has moved on and tries to persuade Ivy to let go of the grief and to look to her own future."

The women started writing the play back in February, and confess to having a bit of fun researching "old-man type bars" in Belfast. They admit The Rough Diamond Bar is modelled upon a bar in Belfast's Cave Hill area.

"It's one of those bars where people have been sitting for 60 years and there are old pictures of boxers on the walls," explains Curran, whose has cousins involved in the boxing scene.

"We wanted to get across that essence Carl Frampton has created at the moment of local boy doing well and the positivity that comes from it. I met him when I did Maggie's Feg Run earlier this year and I was telling him that I was writing this play about a boxer and he was laughing when I said he was called short legged Stuarty Crampton (played by Sean Blaney).

Carl has been invited to the show and although he may not be available due to training commitments, his wife Christine, who also gets a mention in the play, has tweeted her intention to attend.

No Christmas play would be complete without a love story and Last Orders at the Rough Diamond's is the unrequited love between Holly and Stuarty.

"They were childhood sweethearts and went to each other's formals. She went off to university and he went to train," reveals Curran, who hopes to continue combine writing with acting.

"I think Belfast needs a dark comedy television sitcom. I feel the time is right to just try it – if it doesn't work, it doesn't work."

And what will her last order be this Christmas?

"It would have to be a cosmopolitan," she laughs.

:: Last Orders at the Rough Diamond is at Newtownabbey's Theatre at the Mill from December 6-31. See Theatreatthemill.com

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