Pantos and Christmas shows have become a staple in many people’s Christmas plans, adding a bit of theatre and flare to the festive season.
However Caroline Curran’s new comedy play Are Yule Being Served? ventures outside the traditional fairytale retellings and instead focuses on the horror facing hospitality over the holidays.
Caroline explains that her last Christmas show, Jingle All the Hairspray was “rained off” from its run at the Theatre at the Mill in Newtownabbey in 2021 due to an outbreak of Covid-19. However never one to rest on her laurels she was able to use this experience as inspiration for Are Yule Being Served?
“I went down to the MAC to see if there was any way that they could make Jingle All the Hairspray work and they asked if I had £55,000 and I was like ‘I don’t have a fiver’,” joked Caroline.
“So, they suggested modifying it and it just wouldn’t have worked. Then they asked if I had any other ideas and, on the minute, I went ‘I’ve always been really interested in hospitality’ and they told me to go away and come back with an idea around that.
“At that point I was thinking, well I’m nearly 40 if I don’t try and produce and write something now, I’m never going to, and I really wanted to give other actors work at Christmas including myself and thus became Are Yule Being Served?”
She explains that many actors work within the hospitality industry as a “stop gap” between jobs and it was these experiences she drew upon when writing her new Christmas play.
“I had kind of had an idea loosely in my head that it would centre around one person and all the people that she would interact with and meet.
“I then put out a spec asking if anyone wanted to chat to me about their job in hospitality because a lot of actors have worked in the industry as their stop gap because you need to pay your bills and no joke about 100 people came back,” said Caroline.
“I had an abundance of people from all different areas – I was inundated, and they were all brilliant.”
Taking place in the fictional Wind Your Neck Inn on Christmas Eve the show centres around three members of staff - Scarlett the waitress, Al the manager and Gary the chef - covering all the annual chaos facing the hospitality industry from family feuds to festive functions and frisky punters.
“I play Scarlett who is an aging actress, always waiting on the big break hoping that one day it’ll come but she works at the Wind Your Neck Inn to pay her bills.
“It’s Christmas Eve and Scarlett gets word from her agent that she’s been given this massive job opportunity and it’s all about whether she should take it or not and how she’s going to leave so it’s almost semi-autobiographical in a way.
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“It’s an hour long, you’re straight in and out, you meet all these characters who hopefully people will instantly recognise because it’s Christmas and it’s just a bit of laugh with a lot of a heart because I think you need to have a bit of heart in there to make the comedy work,” Caroline explains.
She also reveals that writing the production really opened her eyes to the significant pressure those working in hospitality are under.
“The world works at such a fast pace and you go in and you want things done and with me I have a lot of allergies and they have works dos that come and go, functions that are going on and it’s just constant but they’re also listening to people which I’ve tried to get across with the regulars that come in so hopefully it’ll show how class people who work in hospitality are.”
Although Caroline has done six one-woman shows, for this production she will be joined on stage by Patrick Buchanan and Rhodri Lewis and is directed by Dominic Montague.
“I need the company and I love having a cast. I’ve just finished Burnt Out where there were five of us, and it was great. I love doing the one-woman shows, but it’s very lonely sometimes, so at Christmas the last thing I wanted to be was lonely,” added Caroline.
In addition to writing and starring in the production, this will also be the first time Caroline has produced her own work.
“This is my first big venture out on my own fingers crossed it works, but either way, at least I tried to take it somewhere else.
“I’m back out writing again, I’m now producing it, employing other people including my director and stage manager. There are four people getting work at Christmas, including myself – well, I don’t really get paid, but that’s fine because I’m trying out this brand-new big adventure and if it works, hopefully, then next year I can do different things which is what I’d love to be able to do.”
Are Yule Being Served? runs at The MAC until December 31. themaclive.com