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Theatre audiences invited to enjoy the sights and sounds of Grimes & McKee's Christmas album

Comic double act Conor Grimes and Alan McKee are back at the Lyric Theatre with a new Christmas show. Jenny Lee finds out more

Conor Grimes and Alan McKee bring their new festive comedy, Grimes & McKee's Christmas Album, to Belfast's Lyric Theatre

CHRISTMAS wouldn't be Christmas without Grimes & McKee, and this year the comic pair are delighted to be back on stage together.

"The last time we were on stage was Friday 13th of March 2020. There was something ominous about the date..." says Coleraine man Alan McKee, about the opening night of their new show The Real Rules of Gaelic, at St Peter's GAA club in Lurgan.

Although not a follow-up to their GAA-themed comedy hit St Mungo's Luganulk, the show, which the duo hope to tour in 2022, does include some of the same characters.

Last Christmas, together with Terence Keeley, Tara Lynne O'Neill and Kerri Quinn, they brought an audio version of The Nativity... What the Donkey Saw into homes during lockdown.

This year, it's just them two selves, playing "a cast of thousands", in their new festive comedy - Grimes & McKee's Christmas Album - at Belfast's Lyric Theatre.

The play sees them rush around Belfast on Christmas Eve.

"The show gives people an idea of what our Christmas Eve might be like - running around the place like a blue-arsed flies getting last minute things," says McKee.

"You know when you say to yourself you have all the big stuff done and you need just a couple of 'wee things' - but that can end up being much more problematic then getting the big stuff?" laughs the father of four.

And does this usually include his wife's present?

"Yes, part of it is that we are out there trying to get a present for that special person in our lives.

"My wife always says that I just have to buy one present and it's the one I have to buy for her. My comeback to that is, 'But how much do I help pay for'?"

And with the show only doing selected dates this December, McKee is worried he will get roped into doing more shopping than normal.

"Having to do the show every night is always a good excuse for getting out of standing in the queue in Primark and the like," laughs the 52-year-old.

Grimes & McKee shows are always highly topical, so are we going to hear mentions of Covid passports, high street vouchers and the Northern Ireland protocol?

"It's a different world. It's just nuts isn't it? Without wanting to sound like too much of an oul' man, you never know what is round the corner," he says.

"Conor and I were discussing yesterday about how much people want to hear about all that, but it's what is out there. Brexit, or 'breakfast' as I like to call it, is sure to impinge upon our Christmas preparation.

"And of course we will be very interested in the mask wearing, or not mask wearing, habits of the people of Northern Ireland. And we'll have some masks on ourselves at some point - though we might not necessarily be wearing them on our faces."

Grimes & McKee's Christmas Album features music, including lyrics being "messed about with".

The duo took much inspiration from the Jim Reeves Christmas album, which McKee points out is officially called Twelve Songs of Christmas.

"There are a couple of great songs on the album which highlight Gentleman Jim's smooth voice. My favourite is Silver Bells - very croonerish, just like myself," he laughs.

The show is directed by their long-term collaborator Frankie McCafferty, with Rod McVey providing the live music and music direction.

"Rod keeps us on the straight and narrow. Conor and I like to think we are both good singers, but Rod is there to tell us we are reasonable singers as he has worked with actual singers."

:: Grimes & McKee's Christmas Album runs on selected dates from December 5-30 at Belfast's Lyric Theatre. Lyrictheatre.co.uk.

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