Grimes & McKee star as Mr and Mrs Claus in Lyric Christmas show

Gerard McCabe, Alan McKee and Jo Donnelly star in What the Reindeer Saw at Belfast's Lyric Theatre

THIS Christmas, all Conor Grimes wants is a day without having to wear make-up. The reason? The Co Tyrone actor, comedian and playwright is spending this festive period out of his "comfort zone", dressed in a bra, tights and high heels for his role as Mrs Claus in the Lyric theatre's play, What the Reindeer Saw.

This play is a revival of their 2006 show – but Conor stresses it's a very different production. "We have a new director, new cast, new music. The whole thing has been thrown in the air."

The last time around Michael Condron, of Game of Thrones fame, played Santa and West End star Rachel Tucker played Mrs Claus. For this production, director Tony Devlin, who never saw the previous production, cast Conor Grimes as Mrs Claus and his co-writer Alan McKee as Santa Claus.

"Although some lines have been updated to make it current, the script is still the story of an incompetent Santa who has taken over the family business. He's all into his modern gadget, but hasn't done the basics. So when it comes to the crucial business of completing the list, flying the sleigh and being ready for Christmas he isn't prepared.

"It's the classic tale of someone who has to go and find themselves, dig dig and overcome his fears – in this case flying. Santa is like a Homer Simpson character, who goes through a whole gamut of emotions and wears his heart on his sleeve."

With the help of his hard-working elves and his formidable former model wife at his side, the new Santa has some out-of-the-box ideas for making the North Pole great again.

Audiences can expect plenty of tomfoolery, reindeers locking horns, a flight simulator and a very alternative Santa outfit in this adult panto alternative.

The other cast members Jo Donnelly, Gerard McCabe and Rosie McClelland play a variety of characters, including the elves and reindeers. They are joined on stage by jazz musician Rod McVey, who provides the live musician for the songs, which have new lyrics to familiar Christmas carol tunes.

And has Conor enjoyed portraying a woman? " I had to learn to sit and keep my legs crossed and walk heel to toe. I've had throbbing feet with my high heels, but it's been an experience," he laughs.

:: What the Reindeer Saw continues at Belfast's Lyric Theatre until January 6.

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