Arts Q&A: Alan McKee on Billy Bragg, Van Morrison and life in the so-called fast lane

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, Belfast actor and playwright Alan McKee

Alan McKee stars as Santa, alongside Rosie McClelland and Conor Grimes in What the Reindeer Saw at Belfast's Lyric Theatre this Christmas

1. When did you think about a career in writing/acting and what were your first steps into it?

I have wanted to be an actor since I was eight. I was in a P4 play at Millburn Primary School called King Corando’s Cure, and from that moment on I knew that was what I wanted to do. I didn’t think about writing until I was in my mid-20s and started to write some comedy sketches.

2. Best gigs you’ve been to?

Billy Bragg at the Ulster Hall on November 22, 1990. I can be precise about the date because it was the day Margaret Thatcher resigned as Prime Minister and Billy had a few things to say about her that night. I also enjoyed Van Morrison at Killyleagh Castle in the mid-90s. He actually seemed happy to be there.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?

Prince and the Revolution – the funkiest band ever.

4. The record you’d take to a desert island?

Just one? You get 10 on Desert Island Discs. It would be a toss-up between Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys and The Queen is Dead by The Smiths.

5. And the book?

Going to cheat a bit here and say The Complete Works of Terry Pratchett. I'd need a laugh if I was all on my own.

6. Top three films?

A Fistful of Dollars – the poncho, the cigar and the music; Goodfellas – a masterclass in acting and directing and Duck Soup – glorious nonsense from the Marx brothers.

7. Worst film you've seen and why?

The English Patient. I don’t think I was patient enough, or English enough.

8. Favourite authors?

Irvine Welsh, Samuel Beckett and F Scott Fitzgerald.

9. Sport you most enjoy and top team?

Rugby (Ulster and Ireland); football (Coleraine and Manchester United) and cycling – the only one I can still (just about) participate in.

10. Ideal holiday destination?

Languedoc in the south of France. Near to the beach, the mountains and the vineyards.

11. Pet hate?

People who think that the right-hand lane in a motorway is the fast lane. It’s not. It’s the overtaking lane. Overtake and return to the left hand lane. It’s really not that difficult.

12. What’s your favourite:

Dinner? Moules-frites.

Dessert? Lemon meringue pie.

Drink? Champagne.

13. Who is your best friend and how do you know each other?

I suppose I have to say Conor Grimes. We met at Queens University in the late eighties, and I’ve been following him around ever since on the off chance that he might say something funny.

14. Is there a God?

I have yet to see any evidence of her.

Alan McKee is currently appearing as Santa in What the Reindeer Saw at Belfast's Lyric Theatre, until January 6. Tickets from

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