The Christmas blow dry: Caroline Curran and Jingle All The Hairspray
CHRISTMAS is the time to let your hair down. It's a tradition Caroline Curran (37), writer and great actor (Maggie Muff of fond memory), is not about to break with her new Christmas show at the Theatre at the Mill, Jingle All the Hairspray.
Set, as you'll have guessed, in a hairdressing salon, Scary Bears, Curran says that this is not a panto variant.
"No, if you say that, people expect somebody leaping onstage shouting 'It's behind you.'"
She adds that it is an adult Christmas show but not too X-rated.
"There's bad language, so we have to say for 16-plus. It doesn't have a lot of sexual references but there are secrets as going to the hairdresser's is like therapy."
Curran has undergone a kind of therapeutic journey herself with this show, as it's her first solo Christmas writing gig since her best friend and writing partner, Julie Maxwell, died in 2019.
"My hair fell out, the doctor said stress, but it's grown back. I was bleached but have gone a bit dark. There's a reference to this in the play. I tried all the vitamins and tonics, but had to sit and wait in the house."
If the panto formula involves cross-dressing, villains and what Curran calls a love story "sewn up in a bow", this Christmas show's formula incorporates humour, a bit of smiling through the pain and girl power.
"We have laughs and truthfulness. There's always a reflective moment in the salon, next to the 'Going anywhere nice?' banter, when someone bares their soul."
So in Jingle the main character, salon owner Ali (Claire Connor) ponders going solo without her feckless husband and wonders whether she has to let her business go.
Curran comments: "It's powerful, saying it's OK not to know what's going to happen."
On top of the demands of producing the script without her friend ("I feel part of me's gone, but also think she's influencing me, saying 'Let's go...' "), Curran has written a musical.
Before taking on the job, Curran and her friend and director Fionnuala Kennedy found themselves in conference in an unusual venue.
"We were in my mother's shed with a lot of Prosecco and she said, 'You've got to do this, there's loads of support.' The more we drank, the more it made sense'."
Curran adds: "There's a hint of '80s techno, but I loved doing the original Christmas songs. Our musical director Garth McConaghie is a genius."
The show is in verse and teases the audience with a repeated line about Yuletide being a question of "hang out the mistletoe/Grab a drink/Send your mate a text/Then we'll face what's next".
For those who appreciate satire, there's even a bit of politics: "I'm not going to spoil it but there may be references to Brexit..."
Naturally, Love Island is name-checked. Curran says: "It's fascinating seeing celebrities trying to find love when they're young. In my twenties all I needed to do was figure out what bar I was going to."
With a four-year-old, Molly, to look after and a Christmas show to tend, Caroline Curran is enjoying herself. "I'm still petrified but embracing the show in which I play different roles."
You won't see a real blow dry during the performance, though, for one good reason: "It's difficult to do hair realistically onstage as if you blow dry hair, you can't hear what anybody's saying."
Jingle All the Hairspray runs from tomorrow until December 31 at the Theatre at the Mill, Newtownabbey (theatreatthemill.com)