Friday, December 13, 2013

Nostalgic entertainment that will make you laugh out loud - It’s A Wonderful Life … So It Is!

It’s A Wonderful Life … So It Is! marks the fifteenth and final festive collaboration between Grimes and McKee.

Their first major on-stage partnership was Button’s Hole in 1998, an alternative Christmas pantomime in the Old Museum Arts Centre. This year’s show runs in the Grand Opera House while the set is simple with black drapes disguising the colourful pantomime scenery, the lighting design takes full advantage of the theatre's height and the kit installed for the more complicated panto.

At breakneck speed short scenes introduce a raft of colourful Belfast characters and locations. Georgie Brady (played by Katie Tumelty) manages the corner shop. Money is tight but she comes up with a plan to start a Christmas club and tie the local community’s money into her store rather than feeding the profits of her monstrous competitor. But her co-workers are a liability and on Christmas Eve it all goes wrong.

Georgie blames herself and it’s up to a sweary apprentice Guardian Angel Clarty to earn his wings by saving Georgie, saving the business, and saving Christmas.

The audience are transported back to relive the events that shaped Georgie’s character and then experience the counterfactual of what Belfast would have been like if she hadn’t been born, including Grimes and McKee’s nightmare vision of 'West England'.

After all these years, Alan McKee and Conor Grimes clearly know their audience.

Lots of references to Belfast places and culture from the past. Frasers in Cornmarket, the Balls on the Falls. The cops are bent, the women are tanned to a crisp and emotions run high.

With the show starting at 10pm, the seats are still warm from the earlier pantomime audience. There’s a short interval and the performance ends around a quarter to midnight.

Given the time of night, thankfully it’s high energy with a lot of jumping around. For the most part it’s very shouty. Even the interval music is cranked up to eleven … presumably to empty the audience out to the bar. Unlike some of their previous Christmas shows, it’s smut and innuendo free. Strong language is used sparingly and with good humour.

Katie Tumelty more than holds her own against the more established Grimes and McKee. Hecklers are smoothly incorporated into the dialogue.

Last night’s show ended with a standing ovation from the audience for a confident performance. If you want some nostalgic entertainment that won’t tax your emotions but will make you laugh out loud, then grab a ticket for one of the eight remaining performance of Grimes & Mckee (& Tumelty) from the Grand Opera House.

Produced by Brassneck Theatre, It’s a Wonderful Life … So It Is! runs on Thu 13-Sat 14, Thu 19-Sat 21 and Fri 27-Sun 29 December.

Photos via Brassneck Theatre and Niall Cullen's twitter feeds.

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