IT'S the end of an era. Leesa Harker's ballsy, gutsy Belfast heroine Maggie Muff has played her final scene, it seems, at The MAC.
The character has opened up theatre to a new, appreciative audience, with Caroline Curran playing the role of our heroine. She has not only brought us La Muff, but also big Sally Ann and the abusive guy she originally fell for in Fifty Shades of Red, White and Blue and Maggie's chainsmoking mum.
She's been utterly brilliant and lovable in spite (or maybe because of) the language and er, frankness. Ms Curran told me: "Maggie is wonderful, an entity, a friend to everyone and I've been proud to play her. Her legacy of frankness about sharing her sexuality lives on. And I'm maybe most proud of introducing new theatre audiences, including young audiences. I think theatre is for everyone, no matter what your background."
It all began when Ms Harker jotted down the colourful argot she'd heard in her part of town. Seated at a table in Waterstone's café, Harker - the Erica Jong of east Belfast - was soon talent-spotted as she gained a big online following.
Blackstaff snapped her up, then Martin Lynch developed the stage show which has been to Australia, the north of England and down south. Catch her if you can as the unputdownable woman is on until February 12.
MY contention that Northern Ireland's cultural life is richer than that found in other parts has been borne out by recent awards and nominations.
The Lyric Theatre has won The Stage 'theatre of the year' gong, shared with the Bush Theatre London. Unsurprising, as the Ridgeway Street theatre's visionary programming, warm welcome and award winning architecture nearly always guarantee a great night out.
Interesting, the citation mentioned their sterling work in terms of representing the LGBT+community via stellar dramas such as Amanda Verlaque's This Sh*t Happens All the Time. Woke? No, just aware.
In another part of the cultural wood, the excellent Northern Ireland Opera company has been nominated for no fewer than three prestigious Irish Times awards for Into the Woods, their outstanding and imaginative account of Stephen Sondheim's 1987 work.
IF you enjoy art, and I do, head to the Titanic Hotel for Portrush artist Adrian Margey's new exhibition (February 24-26). Still deploying those wild but somehow recognisable Fauve colours, he's tackled the urban landscape of Belfast (notably the Albert Clock, also Samson and Goliath as you haven't seen them before) as well as his trademark seascapes and town views in vibrant colour.
HARRY Styles, who's just bagged a Grammy for his album Harry's House, is no stranger to Northern Ireland. He apparently enjoyed a stay some years back at the plush Galgorm Hotel. I discovered the woman who pummelled me in the spa had sorted out Mr Styles too. Nice.