ArtBeat: Grimes & McKee, Mike Nesmith, Lise McGreevy, Patrick Kielty and thanks to the NHS

Notes and musings from the arts scene as it emerges from lockdown, by Jane Hardy

Grimes & McKee's Christmas Album at the Lyric is comedy that tickles the brain. Picture by Brian Morrison
Grimes & McKee's Christmas Album at the Lyric is comedy that tickles the brain. Picture by Brian Morrison Grimes & McKee's Christmas Album at the Lyric is comedy that tickles the brain. Picture by Brian Morrison

CHRISTMAS is the loud, comedic time of year. Nothing heralds the approach of December 25 better than Noddy Holder of Slade's pension plan number, Merry Christmas Everybody.

Naturally it features in Grimes & McKee's Christmas Album at the Lyric Theatre in a seemingly casual sketch on the Brummie band. They toyed with the chilled format, and very chilled (i.e. bad) regional accents. Yet John Cleese told Michael Berkeley on Radio 3 humour's hard to write.

Seeing one of our performers outside the theatre before curtain-up having a calming fag gave the lie to their onstage swagger. Comedy tickles the brain, unlike tragedy which tugs at the emotions.

From the banana skin moment (foils expectation) to puns. There was a glorious moment in the Dave Allen-style sketch when Alan McKee translates the Christmas story into 'evocative' Ulster-Scots but has a problem with 'manger'.

He leaves it intact "because we haven't got a word for 'manger'". He successfully recasts frankincense as aftershave, though. In the shopping channel skit there was a droll detail about whether you could get seasonal lights not just in red, white and blue, with (quickly) orange, green and white available.

Naughty, like the satirical folk club ditty about instant Facebook virologists. That send up of the anti-restriction philosophy got a bit of a clap from the capacity audience, but we were all sensibly wearing masks...

Twitter has been having a slightly heated debate about how Northern Ireland gets ignored culturally by the south. There are co-productions (notably between The Abbey and Lyric Theatres), Ulster shows tour and surely cultural borders need to be porous. I remember covering a Leonard Cohen gig in Dublin for media here - ace hat and delivery of Hallelujah.

So, RIP Mike Nesmith, described by Neil McCormick as the Monkees' John Lennon, who made it down south with the band in 1997 and 2002. His music and prototypical beanie will be long remembered.

To the Engine Room Gallery, possibly Belfast's biggest public gallery, in North Street. Artist and gallerist Lise McGreevy's solo show I Am Woman contains a clever photographed self-portrait showing her hands taking a selfie.

This shows us to be at the end of the Romantic era, where the only subject is ourselves. If you're looking for an arty present, head to the £50 Gallery for a small but perfectly executed original artwork by names like Ray Duncan.

Sky Arts did this week what Westminster hadn't managed to do all year, that is thank our care and key frontline NHS workers properly via a special show broadcast from the Waterfront. Without a salary rise, sadly.

Telly is the portmanteau genre; here we had the great, gravel voiced Foy Vance, NI Opera, as well as the sharp-as-a-lorry-load-of-tacks Patrick Kielty. He asked the audience to applaud (well, we clapped you), again agitating that particular funny bone.