Sunday, October 25, 2015

‘Em 2 Balloons starting up their own theatre company and putting on a Christmas comedy sketch show

Two actors without work over Christmas wondering who’s going to play Santa for the kids …

It could be the start of a Christmas production in any number of regional theatres across Northern Ireland. But it’s the position that actors Ciáran Nolan (Man in the Moon, Mistletoe and Crime) and Gerard Jordan (The Fall, Game of Thrones) have found themselves in this year and it has given them the impetus to widen their experience and set up their own company – The Balloon Factory – to produce a seasonal comedy sketch show.

The pair first worked together more than ten years ago on BBC NI’s Pulling Moves and their paths have kept crossing ever since. Playwright Mick Draine (Lemonade Sandwich) is fashioning the script while Brassneck’s Tony Devlin is on board as director.

Raking over the Troubles and being overtly political isn’t their focus. They see themselves as “a different generation bringing our kind of comedy” onto the stage – along with new writers – though they admit you can never completely remove politics from local humour.

‘Em 2 Balloons opens for a week at the end of November in West Belfast’s Roddys Club before ten performances in The Errigle Inn and some other nights out on the road.

With intimate community venues and audiences that demand to be entertained, they promise that ‘Em 2 Balloons will be about characters audiences will recognise, the comedy, the costumes and a bit of Christmas cheer rather than projectors and fancy sets.

I met up with Gerald and Ciaran the morning after Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín reiterated her strategy to cut funding to established arts organisations in order to reinvest closer to working class communities.

To these two actors, there’s nothing novel with this approach: it’s normal for them to take theatre into Ardoyne Youth Club and bring the kids back to the Lyric to see some of their previous productions.

Similar to the practice of companies like Brassneck who regularly première their work in social clubs, ‘Em 2 Balloons is playing in community venues and not traditional theatre spaces. And the ambitious new company has sought private funding to back their show and aren’t reliant on public funding.

If you want easy good fun comedy for Christmas with great Belfast characters and plenty of banter, check out The Balloon Factory’s Facebook page and get your tickets booked.
  • Roddy McCorley’s Social Club 25-29 November
  • The Errigle Inn 1-10 and 13 December
  • Craic Theatre Coalisland 11 December
  • St Canice GAC, Dungiven 12 December
  • King’s Head, Belfast 17 December
  • St Enda’s CLG 18 December

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